Holidailies 2013 – On the Second Day of Christmas

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OK, I promise not to take those titles out for the next four weeks – BUT – I have decided that I need to get my writing brain back up to speed, and the blog is the easiest launching pad for that. Need to be back to a regular writing routine for Blogmutt to earn money in January but need to dust off the brain cells first.

SO – I signed up for Holidailies – I did this some years ago and while this month is certainly one with plenty of obstacles to writing regularly, it is also RIPE with ideas for posts. So even if it is three sentences, I am going to post every day (ish…)

First off – it’s building furniture time! Haven’t done this in ages and wasn’t honestly expecting it even this time around. Guess I missed the section where it said “Assembly required”. Not that I mind – this was only $80, and shipping was free from Overstock. It will be the perfect bookend to the white storage bench in the entryway on the far opposite dark brown wall. And hey! When I was writing regularly for Blogmutt, one of the clients was a furniture building site and I wrote a post on “5 Easy IKEA Furniture Assembly Tips & Tricks”. I promptly ignored 3 of those tips and sure enough, that made this take longer than it should have!

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Building with cats – always an adventure. First they inspect, then they get in the way, then they run when you break out the hammer.

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The problem here, is that those two middle pieces are upside down in this photo. I was trying to bolt them in place using the holes intended for dowels.

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Here, 28 assists with the trim pieces. Wood glue should have been used here. Instead, he had to fiddle & remove the dowels and reinsert them and then finally got them attached so that they wouldn’t fall off.

My five tips?

  1. Make sure the piece you are building will fit where it is intended and assemble it as close to that spot as possible (check!)
  2. Have a photo of the finished product handy just in case the instructions only have a rudimentary drawing. (check!)
  3. Read the instructions through twice before you start doing anything (whoopsie)
  4. Lay out all pieces in relation to their placement and the order of the instruction steps along with corresponding hardware to make sure all pre-drilled holes are lining up. (double whoopsie)
  5. Make sure you have a rubber mallet – preferably not white so you don’t leave scuff marks on darker wood (check!) and wood glue for securing dowels (argh!)

OK, so I really only missed 2.5…but the ones I missed almost created a disaster because the product would not have been assembled properly and sitting on it could have been treacherous. Also, removing cats would be a good plan as would changing out of work clothes..seriously…what was I thinking?

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DONE! Probably at least an hour longer than it should have taken, but ta da! Yes, that is my ugly plastic table out in the backyard. Yes, I need to buy a cover for it since I am keeping the blinds open to display ALL OF THE LIGHTS from out there 🙂 Yes, I expect the cats to be sleeping up there immediately. Now I can cover up the cords under the tree and maybe lay down some sparkly cotton this year instead of the tree skirt. Need to lighten it up down there I think.

So, that’s it from here tonight. Back tomorrow with perhaps a preview of the outdoor lights that are already delighting the neighborhood kids.

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

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All good ones! I was finally able to arrange for the disposal of an oversized, hand me down and out of shape set of furniture in my living room. The love seat and chair were rarely both in use and the love seat would only be in use if both 17 and I were watching tv at once. I’ve wanted to downsize from those things for a long time. I replaced them with two super comfy, smaller easy chairs:

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Now I am plotting what to do to fill in the wall with the big window – most likely storage of some kind – I am eyeing a low TV/media cabinet that wouldn’t block much of the window but would provide a place to store extra blankets, pillows and cat beds.

So things look fresh and new at home – and now, the BIG reveal – my new office!

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Here’s the view up close out the window – trees!

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Beyond our own actual desk/office space which is absolutely PERFECT for us – 4 cubicles, windows, and a back wall that allows for plenty of file space and space for our water, printer & fax without jamming up the walkway. I mean, really – it’s perfect! Quiet too – so beautifully, blissfully – QUIET. Even nicer is what we walk through several times a day going to to bathroom, getting our food from the break room, heading to the copier or to other offices – the atrium with a running water fall and gorgeous skylight roof:

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Yep – luxury, light and fresh air! Pretty fantastic changes all around!

Fumication!

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Is it horrible of me to think of this as the Darth Vader house? Where termites die die die!!!

Yes, I am thinking evil and morbid termite destruction thoughts.

Anyway…. I must say I am impressed with how well they tucked the tent in behind the vine on the trellis on the left. I know my neighbor didn’t want to lose that, but she also couldn’t cut it back as easily as I could cut back my plants. Plus, I was honestly not the least bit concerned about some of those old bushes getting gassed along with the termites!

Oh, there I go being morbid again.

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Meanwhile – THIS is what I traded in termite central for.

Renee coined the term “Fumication” and boy was it ever!

May I just say that after a week of mentally ticking off item after item that needed to get done before this tenting adventure, that I was a tad bit *stressed* by Tuesday morning?

I think that taking the cats in on the way to work that morning did me in – Chip went into his carrier without too much struggle and I put him in the car. He whines, but it’s just generic meowing.

Amber? Oh Holy Drama Hell Batman! I gave up after three attempts to get her in her carrier, put everything else in the car I needed to take with me to the vet with them and then I just picked her fat, howling ass up and put it in the passenger seat next to me. She cowered down, with Chip in his carrier on the floor in front of her and I drove the two blocks to the vet with my hand on her screaming head trying to calm her down to NO success. I swear if cats could scream to the point of losing their voices, she was going to do it!

Once at the vets, I got someone there to get Chip and then I carried Miss Howling Pants (in my ear the whole time thank you very much!) back into a temporary cage. She kept up the vocal protests the entire time I was in there filling out the paperwork for them. I swear it was like dropping off a shrieking toddler to daycare. I have no doubt she stopped crying the minute I left the building.

You can imagine that by the time I got checked into my hotel that afternoon, I was THRILLED to be ALONE. Both boys had made their arrangements and were safely in their respective places and I totally unwound. Walked around the grounds, spotted a great blue heron in a tree outside my room:

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Caught up with friends on Facebook, chatted for awhile with one and then moseyed over to the restaurant for a leisurely, yummy dinner topped off by this pretty, but, sort of odd take on creme brulee:

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Macaroons topped the creme brulee tucked in a chocolate crust. Eh.

I slept from 9-6 that night. Actually, I cannot even be sure I made it to 9pm! Clearly, I was in need of sleep. I woke up to this lovely sunrise over the golf course.

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After work I met The Boyfriend at Fidels for some crab burritos and Corona:

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Now we are home and all is well. Two hours after bringing the cats home they are eating and drinking and back in their normal routines. A little quieter though since their claws were trimmed so they can sneak up on us. Also a little thinner maybe? Due to the fact that they didn’t eat much or that, in Amber’s case especially, the bath and grooming might have removed some excess fur!

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Anyhow, all that matters is that the termites? They dead!

Bwahahahahaha.

Fun with termites!

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First of all, yes, that is an Andersen Kitty Calendar from Love and Hisses on the wall. The ever Gorgeous Corbie is keeping an eye on the shenanigans for me this month 🙂

So, termite tenting week is here. I spent Sunday cleaning and bagging after spending Saturday getting the backyard prepped. 27 took care of the side and front yards for me and also found me a deal on a nice hotel for the two nights. It’s a team effort around here 🙂 16 had to clean his room and has to pack up all his things and make arrangements to NOT walk home from school for two days.

The cats will be going to their own hotel – aka, our veterinarian’s boarding facility. It means extra cost for me, but it also means 100% peace of mind because then I can go to work and not worry about them cowering in a strange hotel room all alone and risk a random hotel employee ignoring my Do NOT clean the room request and opening the door letting them out.

Plus, I’ll ask the vet to clip those claws and bathe them – oh, they are going to be SO MAD at me!! But, they will also have constant attention as they will be the only cats boarding there this week so they will even get more room than usual.

Oh hey – I ran a personal best 9.14 miles on the San Elijo trails yesterday! It was my last really long trail run until probably mid-Feb so it felt GREAT to do that. Two hours solid, 13 min/mile average which is a nice easy pace. The new camelback the girls gave me for Christmas is perfect for these runs and I think I balanced my energy bean consumption before and during the run just perfectly. No bonking. It was gorgeous out there too, but I didn’t want to stop to take pictures – had to just keep those feet moving no matter how slow!  It was pretty cold at first, but thankfully there was no measurable wind so once the sun broke through it warmed up to a very comfortable running temp.

I have another just for fun K9 5k event close to home on Sunday. Coach Tanja is loaning me one of her dogs. There is some debate about who will be dragging who around 🙂

That’s it from termite land. Well, I should say, soon to be Dead and Gone termite land. It’s time to evict those damn freeloaders!

 

 

Great Fence (and planter) project – DONE!

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Spooky tree in the mist on a morning run

December 30th was a day of off and on showers so I had to take a break from staining. I did take the time for a typical longer Sunday morning trail run. Couldn’t join Renee in her 105 minute run at Lake Hodges, but I did throw my new Camelback on for a trial outing and go for an easy 5 mile jog over 60 minutes. It was around 48 when I started running and I just had to stop now and then to admire the misty landscape.

I finished taking down all of the backyard lights in between showers and hatched an aggressive plan of action for NYE.

  1. Finish the fence (me)
  2. Take down and put away all outside lights (16)
  3. Move wireless internet modem out of 27’s room (27)

I really wanted today to be a full time sofa day. No guilt. I mean, I do love tackling home improvement and organizing and cooking projects, but having been consumed with all of the above since Christmas, I thought the last day of my holiday break could perhaps be a restful one! Thankfully I got both boys to sign on to that plan and by the time 16 and I left for our respective NYE destinations, all tasks were completed.

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Fence – DONE!

Even though I only had two final sections to stain, they took a long time! This photo was taken in deep afternoon shadows. I had started at 9am! I did have to take breaks to direct light removal and match up light strands to boxes, but still. For whatever reason, it was slow going.

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With the fence done, that planter is looking more tired than ever…

I figured I had just enough daylight – and then time after to clean myself up before NYE dinner – and I did have plenty of stain left, so I tackled the truly rotted and worn looking planter. Yeah, the wood is still in terrible shape, but damn, does it ever LOOK good now:

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One hour later, problem solved! The planter looks new.

I may not put the potted plants back up on it now – I don’t want to cover it up!

So, yes, I did let 16 drive over to his friend’s house last night. I’d cleared it with the parents that he could stay there.

The plan was for me to have dinner with E&R and I had gotten up early and mixed up some jello shots to set all day while I painted. A mixture of black cherry jello flavor and brandy.

What does that mixture taste like you might ask?

Robitussin :/

Anyhow – with my plan enacted I am today planted in front of the TV watching the Rose Parade and then whatever College Bowl game holds my interest. I don’t make traditional New Year’s Resolutions, but since my goal for 1/1/13 was to line up a full day of couch potato time – then I’ve already conquered the one resolution I did make!

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Post jello shot & champagne cheers! Happy New Year!

Fence Staining Project Rain Delay and Minestrone

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First, the recipe – yes, it was good enough to share! Added to the Main Meal Page too.

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Slow Cooker Minestrone

Origin unknown – this basic recipe serves 6 – I didn’t want a bunch of leftover open containers of ingredients so I doubled it froze 1/2

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 & 1/2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 28oz can of tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 8 oz can of red kidney beans – drained
  • 1 8 oz can of white kidney beans – drained
  • 15oz of beef stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 1/12 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons parsley
  • 1o oz of spaghetti sauce
  • 4 ounces pasta (I used mini pinwheels)
  • salt to taste – start with 1/2 tsp

Brown beef in a skillet & drain. Add all ingredients into the crock pot except pasta. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. In the last 45 minutes add pasta.

Per my tips above – the ingredient sizes are odd – I honestly don’t know where this recipe came from yet it is a fairly new one I printed out. But really – 10 oz of jar spaghetti sauce? 15oz beef stock? 1/2 an onion? And of course I couldn’t find an exactly measured 1lb package of ground beef either. Hence the doubling and NO leftover items 🙂 The recipe itself doesn’t call for salt, but we found it did need it. Otherwise – YUM! Fabulous winter day meal!

Day Two of The Great Fence Staining Project of 2012!

I *thought* I had another clear, dry day ahead of me to complete the fence, right? Wrong! Woke up at 7am and watching Up and thankfully I read twitter a bit and saw updates from LA friends about THUNDER and RAIN! Shit.

Checked San Diego and yep – now it was a 60% chance of rain TODAY! Argh! So I loaded up the local radar and it looked like I had until about noon to stain. That would make sure that whatever I did stain would be well dry before the first showers hit around 1pm. All right, then let’s DO THIS:

First hour - slow going because I had to get behind/around the planter again.

First hour – slow going because I had to get behind/around the planter again.

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This was around 11am – I had to also stain the top of the fence up to this point because the neighbor behind me on that section has left hers without paint or stain so far. I didn’t want to leave any part “raw” like that because I was already seeing mold in this section – which is the darkest corner of the yard. Also, I swear that the side I share with my next door neighbor was done with wood that was better treated to begin with. As soon as I transitioned this morning to this back part, the wood seemed more porous and already showed some wear 😦 I’ve done my part – now I just have to hope since her side gets more sun that it’s not so bad over there. Thankfully the other backyard neighbor who I share the majority of the fence with did have hers stained right away. Still, since they used the same person for the entire section, I am still seeing some of the same mildew patterns at the bottom already. Even some bits of the wood splintering off on one post. And of course, I cannot say anything since they both took on this project out of their own pockets and have graciously allowed me to pay them back over time. Anyhoo…

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Just to give a feel for the time it takes – I’m covering every surface – including up under those cross beams.

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So, here is what I had left to do at 11am – that next section being more out in the open meant I figured I could get it done and have it dry before the rain (at this point the earlier section behind the planter that I started on at 9:15 was plenty dry. So, check the radar:

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Gonna be close!

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Noon! Mission Accomplished! No sign yet of rain – trouble is, my stomach was growling. I knew the rain would be there once I ate lunch (leftover minestrone of course). So then my strategy was to clear out the plumbago after I ate because it didn’t matter if I did that during a little rain:

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That bush really grew in thick since the fence was put up! So, I knew it would recover after another hacking – especially with all this rain we are getting.

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All clear! Left a small spray of the bush that is growing out about a foot clear of the fence – will be plenty easy to work around that – certainly easier that it was getting around the peach tree and planter box! So this was taken at 1:30 and the rain had just started spritzing a bit.

It’s now rained for almost 2.5 hours – all just light showers, but there is no way I will be hitting that last bit today. It needs to dry out first and right now there are these off and on showers predicted through tomorrow morning.

Grumble.

The Great Fence Staining Project of 2012

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I crack myself up with that title. The total square feet of the fence I need to stain is just under 200. Hah! That’s nothing which is why I was so willing to do it myself this week.

Taking advantage of a couple of dry days between the usual intermittent winter rain storms here, I knew I had to get this done by Sunday. So yesterday I took down the Christmas lights along the fence, moved all the potted plants away, cleared out the little Rubbermaid storage shed in the corner and moved it out of the way. It needs to be off the house wall anyway for the tenting. I also went ahead and raked back the pebbles along that corner of the wall. Yes, this task has a dual purpose 🙂

Didn’t get started today until after lunch due to some other lingering errands – including purchasing the ingredients to a slow cooker minestrone soup recipe that I am drooling over right now (30 more minutes!) – I think it was about 12:30 when I got started which makes sense given the the shadows on this photo:

Getting started....

Getting started….

What I should have focused on what the area just to the left of that last post on the left side of the photo. There are several smaller boards in place securing the fence to the post just against the houses and I had to stain all of that. That dang corner and the top pieces took a lot of time and patience. But, as you can see the sun was on my back and I had a podcast playing on my ipod in the portable speakers that I brought outside and I was plenty happy.

About one hour into the project....

About one hour into the project….

Around 1:30 Renee texted me to see if I wanted to join her for a one hour easy run just from my house down on the 56 trail. Since I HAD planned this afternoon on stopping around 4pm and going for a run (SO needed!!) I said “why not?!” and stopped at this point to take a run break. Again, perfect weather and I am actually glad she pulled me out earlier because by 4pm I think it would have been a lot more uncomfortably cold on the trail. We had just the right blend of soft winter sun, no wind and occasional shade.

I was back in front of the fence exactly at 3pm and continued non-stop until 5pm which put me perfectly at the natural light waning, a chill taking over and hey – the whole short side was done!

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So the fence is made with cedar. The stain I am using is an acrylic/latex based stain that is clear enough to show the wood grain patterns, but obviously packs a colorful punch! I wanted to closely match the post color from the top two photos so I chose a Mahogany stain color. All of the posts are that darker wood tone already with the center boards and horizontal support beams in much lighter tone. It’s treated wood, but given that we are about to tent for termites and this area is rampant with them AND that my back yard is a naturally damp, low sun area I really wanted that new wood extra protected.

I love the results so far! Of course, I may not be as enthusiastic after the LONGER portion tomorrow, but other than finishing up the bit around the planter in the corner there wont be as many intricate spots. Plus, I can get started a lot earlier so I should be able to finish it.

Now is that damn minestrone ready?!!