Thursday, May 31, 2007

If only it were this easy

Look! Empty living room! It was a little easier to empty than the rest of my house ....

... since it's the size of a shoebox.
This is the dollhouse my grandfather built for my mom in the '40s and that she fixed up again for me when I was little. It's a little battered, but has provided much entertainment for visiting kids, so I hope to find a nice spot for it eventually and fix it up again. Meanwhile, it will have to live in the basement.


The movers come tomorrow, and I need to have everything they're moving completely emptied out and accessible. I've reached the point of just dumping drawers wholesale into boxes, and every time I turn around there's something else I forgot about.

I still have to finish nailing down the stair treads at the new place, and write out where everything goes. Probably some other stuff, too.

I've been getting about 5 hours of sleep every night. Even when I want to sleep later, I wake early up with my brain clamoring. Except today, because my realtor's coming over at 10 to take some measurements. Today I could have managed at least a couple more hours.

Luckily, I will still have some time to get the rest of my stuff out and clean up after the move, in preparation for showing the old house. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

But I'm tired!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Party animal

Esther the Chihuahua is ready for her close-up. She and her buddy Angus (also a Chihuahua) belong to my friend Little Ginger and her husband, who hosted a Memorial Day shindig to which I came very late (packing, you know). But it was lovely to relax a little and devour a brat under the fulsome moon and the party lights in a cozy nook behind their turn-of-the-(last)-century rowhouse. There are maybe eight narrow houses in an L that share a prettily landscaped backyard that is tucked away in the middle of the block. You would never guess it is there. It reminds me of Parisian courtyards, a green oasis in the middle of the city.

Hail, yes

More peonies are blooming, including Charlie's White:
And Hermione:

I took the photos on my way out the door to head to work, hoping I would beat the hail. I did not:

I'll have to check my roof for dimples tomorrow. It came down so hard I was afraid my windshield would break.

We also had a tornado watch, but no twisters materialized, happily.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sure footing

These stair treads may not look like much; in fact, they're not much, but they represent a small triumph for the day. They make all the difference in Sophie's ability to negotiate the very steep and very slippery wooden stairs.

I plan to get a nice runner installed, but I need to wait until I have been in the house a bit to figure out what colors and/or pattern I want. And even if I knew what I wanted right now, it would take a couple of weeks to get a runner bound and installed. So in the meantime I wanted a cheap, temporary solution that would save me from having to carry my 45-pound dog down the stairs several times a day. She can go up fine, but coming down, her feet would slide out from under her, and she would almost fall, or get stuck halfway down.

I went to Carpet Exchange and they were less than helpful, telling me what I wanted was impossible. There is no such thing as temporary treads to help out an old dog, but they would be happy to sell me a real runner and send someone to install it next week sometime.

Then I went to Home Depot, where Mickey in the carpet department said, "Awww, I have a 14-year-old dog and I know just what you need." We measured out 12 feet of el cheapo, thin rubber-backed carpet and she spent half an hour cutting it into 13 tread-sized pieces for me, then led me to the staple/nail gun area and showed me what kind to get and what nails to use.

Since I'm getting a runner anyway, a few extra little nail holes won't make a difference, but having the dog able to negotiate the stairs without help will.

Sure enough, she came down slowly but steadily, and didn't slip once.

Carpet: $25. Nail gun: $15. Dog in one piece: Priceless.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Inching along

My carpenter just stopped by to take rough measurements for bookcases. Floor-to-ceiling in the kitchen and the upper hallway, and three walls' worth in the Safari Room/study.

And he says he can get into the crawlspace to brace the joist under the downstairs tub. The inspector had noted that the joist had been cut there and was starting to twist, which could spell disaster under a cast iron tub full of water. It's a tiny space, but Pascal assured me it's a simple fix and he's not claustrophobic. Hooray!

What it's all going to cost I'm afraid to guess. But in the end, very worth it.

Now to empty the car and go get another load.

Barbecue later at one friend's, and then wine here with some others, again.

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Box score

For as much as I've packed, I'm still way too optimistic about how many boxes I will need for any given category. Fifty for books? Try 70. One for shoes? Nope, three. Five for the china cabinet was half what it took. So, another night of scavenging at work. I love me some copier paper boxes!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Don't laugh

Monkey business

For sale at an antique shop across from where we had lunch today.

The Denver Hillbillies

All they need is Granny Clampett! That's my old couch.


My cleaners were going to come Monday, but when I called yesterday, they said, "How about we come tomorrow? Would 6 a.m. be too early?"

They've spent about two hours on the kitchen already, scrubbing down the insides of the cabinets and drawers, cleaning the baseboards and the tops of the window frames, wiping down the walls.

Meanwhile, I'm on carload No. 3 of stuff.

Pretty good for the morning after a party! (Yes, had a few friends and neighbors over for wine and pizza on the new porch.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

It's mine!

Click here for Flickr photos of the empty house.

It's pretty cleaned out, so there's not a lot I have to do to move in. Wash baseboards and inside cabinets and drawers ... detailed cleaning that shouldn't take too long. Get the carpenter in to measure. Consider whether I need to paint anything now. And I can start hauling over all the little, easy stuff.

The furniture (and book!) movers come next Friday.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


This thing has six bedrooms and seven baths. They want $850,000 for it.
The sign kills me. "Reviving Denver's Neighborhoods"? Not with eyesores like this, you're not.

Farewell, flower friends

Some flowers I'll be able to replace in my new garden. Aliums, of course, are easy.

And this remarkably similarly-colored plant, which I can't remember the name of, grows really well here. Starts with a C, I think. Anyone?

But it will be very hard to say goodbye to Mrs. FDR, who is blooming quite spectacularly this year, and she beat out Charlie's White, who is usually first. I planted two each of them and Hermione my first year in this house. I got them from Klehm Nursery, now Song Sparrow Farm. They have the best peonies. And nice daylilies and hostas, too.

I wish I could take the peonies with me, but that's not to be.


I have a confession to make: I was a middle-aged Happy Meal addict.

Go ahead, turn away in shock and disgust. But it's true. I went through a period where a Happy Meal was just the thing when I was on the go and wanted something to eat and didn't want to stop for more than three minutes to get lunch (or dinner). The Happy Meal was just the right size: a little hamburger, some fries, a little soda, for about $2.50. And you got a toy with it!

I gave away a lot of toys, and put a lot on my desk at work, too. Some of the collections charmed me, so I'd go back again and again to "Collect 'em all!" The "Toy Story" toys, the "Monsters Inc." toys, the Matchbox cars and yes, all the puppies from "The Dog" series.

It was a consciousness-raising effort, too. Oh, how it irked me in the drive-through when they'd ask "Toy for a boy or toy for a girl?" Because boys got cars and girls got Barbies. So I'd make them tell me over the intercom what the toys were, then say "I want a car. For a girl." (And then I'd have to check the bag, because invariably they'd just hear "girl" and stick a Barbie in.)

Well, I kind of grew out that, and the Great Cholesterol Scare of Ought-Five pretty much cured me of the habit. Now I only get a Happy Meal when I'm on my way to give blood, every three months. A reward of sorts.

So it was a little shocking while cleaning out the garage this morning to go through the box of stuff I've cleaned out of my car over the last few years each time I've washed it. Stuff I wanted to keep but didn't want in the house or back in the car.

Toys. Lots of toys. Many of them still in plastic. Wow, I really did have a problem.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tunnel, light

The fiction is boxed! Twenty-five crates' worth. Now I'm just down to a few more crates of miscellaneous stuff. I've also boxed up all my CDs, DVDs and videotapes. I had a lot more than I thought. Put some china in boxes, too.

Man, I've got a lot of stuff.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Just yesterday I learned of the lolcat phenomenon sweeping the internet, via a Slate article (what can I say ... these kids and their trends just move too fast for me to keep up with it all). I spent a goodly amount of time browsing I can has cheezburger?, lol'ing at some of the very funny ones there. Had to try out the lolcat builder, too. This the result.

The language twisting bugs me in regular Internet postings and comments, but here it works for some reason. Ripe fodder for a linguistics dissertation, I'm sure.

Ants marching

Before mowing the lawn, I picked up the bones Sophie had cleaned out, not realizing that an entire colony of ants under the nearby sidewalk had claimed the bones as its own. A short time later I discovered them all milling about the entrance in utter dismay and confusion. Oh cruel, cruel fate, to be left marrowless!

Don't panic

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, my head full of terrible thoughts. "Oh God, I'm making a mistake. The house is too big. It's going to be too hot. The old dog will suffer. There's no way I can put a swamp cooler on the steep roof. There's no convenient place for an air conditioning unit that's out of sight, especially since there are two furnaces and hence two sets of ducts. The stairs are too steep. The old dog is going to fall down them. I won't be able to do all the maintenance I now can do myself. There's no place to put X. There's no place to put Y. The dog is going to be upset. She's going to die and it will be my fault. What the hell am I doing?"

I tossed. I turned. I told myself, "It's 4:30 a.m. and problems always seem 10 times worse in the middle of the night. You'll be fine in the morning."

I went back to sleep. I had a dream I was looking at the house again. I discovered a big mushy spot in the kitchen floor. A workman told me, "Oh, that's nothing. Old house, you know." I looked up: big bulge in the ceiling. "Nothing. No problem," said the workman. I started cleaning, discovered water running down the wall. The workman came in. "You've got a problem."

Panic! Must turn off water main. Run down the (previously unnoticed) back stairs to the (now surprisingly large and finished) basement. There are two children there, playing. They are the current owners' kids. I'm trying to call Mom on my cellphone to tell her to come watch the kids while I open the trapdoor to the subbasement. The cellphone refuses to cooperate. I get into the subbasement, discover the valve on the water main is broken. There's water gushing from it.

I woke up.

It was 6:30. I called Mom. She talked me down.

Now it's almost 8. I feel a little better. But tired.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Night visitor

"May I come in?"
No, you may not, but I'll come out and take your picture.

Rose is a rose

Plus, a poppy:I got up and walked Sophie right away, before it got hot, thinking we would make a certain coffee shop our destination. Only to find they changed their hours and don't open until 9. Curses! But the flowers we saw were a consolation, and I made coffee once we got back.

Back to packing.

What I'm reading: "Following the Bloom"
by Douglas Whynott

I haven't had a lot of time to read lately, and when I do sit down for a minute, it's hard to concentrate; I keep thinking of stuff I have to get done. So it's taking me a while to get through "Following the Bloom: Across America With the Migratory Beekeepers." Nevertheless, I am enjoying expanding what I know about bees with this entertaining and informative book.

You probably like honey, and that's the first thing we think of when we think of beekeepers, but bees also serve a critical roll in agriculture, as pollinators for a huge variety of crops. Migratory beekeepers spend a huge amount of time and effort transporting thousands of hives at a time around the country, in search of the best nectar to feed their colonies and to make money from farmers who need the bees for their blueberry bogs, almond trees, orange groves and other flowering crops. Along the way the beekeepers encounter a lot of misconceptions about what they do, and often fear and anger from people who don't want truckloads of stinging insects set down nearby or even passing through.

This book introduces a number of these dedicated beekeepers and the challenges they encounter, and also explains in detail what the bees do and how they do it. You can learn about the history of commercial beekeeping in the U.S. and how it has evolved, and how it continues to change. A mite that sickens bees is one such challenge, as states impose restrictions to keep it from spreading. Another is the march (or swarm) northward from Latin America of the africanized bee (the so-called killer bee), which is also a honey-producer but much harder to control, with possible devastating effects on the U.S. industry.

Douglas Whynott has a sympathetic and approachable style of telling the beekeepers'story, using personal accounts mixed with factual narrative. Now I've got my eyes peeled for hives in the fields (I saw some in California last week) and will likely have a few questions for the beekeepers I encounter at the next farmers market. And a new appreciation for the sweetness in my tea!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A bear of a project

A co-worker brought in this polar bear he carved from marble. It took him six months. Pretty awesome.

Shaggy dog

I just found this photo of Sophie and me when she was about a year old, right before her first full haircut. Eleven years ago! We had just moved to Colorado from South Dakota, where I'd let her hair grow out over the winter because it was often 20 degrees below zero. She wore booties to protect her feet from the ice there but was otherwise plenty warm. I, on the other hand, had to bundle up like Nanook of the North.

Packing procrastination

Out for a walk on a beautiful day. (I hosed Sophie down first. It's hot out!)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Forty crates

There it is, folks. Forty crates of nonfiction, including eight crates of cookbooks and food-related writing.

The boxes are roughly labeled by category (memoir, travel, reference etc.), and more specifically for the cookbooks (Asian, French, fish, vegetarian, desserts, famous chefs, etc.), with a big "C" on each side. I want to get the kitchen bookcase built first and will get the movers to place the crates nearer the garage door so I can get to them easily.

Next up: fiction. I'm going to guess 20-30 crates for that, but packing them should be easier since novels tend to be fairly standard in size.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Crazy neighbors

They dug a giant fire pit in the side of the hill between the sidewalk and garage. Big blaze and no one watching it. Hope they checked for buried gas lines first!

Tote 'em

Thank goodness for Costco! Not long ago I spotted these 12-gallon totes there for $6 apiece and bought a few, thinking they'd be good for clearing some excess books from my shelves for storage in the garage. (While looking for an image online, I see that Staples has them on sale for $10 apiece, so I am feeling smug)

Well, I've now filled 30 of them with non-fiction (not counting cookbooks), and I just got another 25 for fiction. I'm not sure how much they weigh full, but I'd say at least 50 pounds. I can lift them enough to stack them five high. (I'm using a dolly to get them out to the garage, though.) That means the movers should have no problem, assuming they're at least as strong as I am (god, they better be).

All the books will have to live in the new garage for a while until I can get bookcases built. Happily, my carpenter is still around and will take a look at the house after I close next week.

Before and after

Garden palette

Flowers are popping out all over! The tree peony is quite showy, and a good week ahead of the regular ones:
The early-blooming clematis is already fading:
The flax is a vigorous reseeder:
The chives also keep volunteering in new pots but don't seem interested in rooting in the ground, which is fine by me:
Purple iris:
And columbines: