Monday, December 28, 2009

Good House, Bad Kitty

I’m still alive. Barely. I’ve absent from this blog and from blog reading and commenting for so long that one might think the laws of gravity had failed and I’d been flung from the face of the planet.

Not to fear. I’ve just been preoccupied. K and I hosted a birthday party for a friend’s 50th on December 19th. We entertained about 50 guests with peppermint martinis, cranberry margaritas and a slideshow starring the birthday boy. At just under 1100 square feet, we were really pleased with the layout of the house. Throughout the remodel we focused on maximizing the space for entertaining, with attention to traffic flow and to creating conversation areas. Except for the bathrooms and the guestroom upstairs, each room has two doors, encouraging guests to move freely through the house and limiting congestion. Even though the house is small, I think the layout really kept guests from feeling trapped or crowded in.

Planning the party was fun but nothing would come together if I even glimpsed at my blog or other blogs in the days leading up to the big event. Internet gets a grip on me.

Speaking of getting a grip on me, there was one thing that happened the week before the big party. The quick story is that a neighborhood cat thought she would have a peek into one our windows. The Kitten became enraged and I thought she was going to claw the wooden grill right off the newish window. She’s already done plenty of damage to the wood on the bedroom window. I should have given up after my first two attempts to distract our little demon. The third time she meant business. Before I knew it, I had 9 pounds of angry calico locked on my right forearm.

When I returned from the emergency room, she ran out to greet me with big eyes and meows. She never runs to greet me. I really do believe she came out to apologize. I don’t think she knows that her damage required stitches and a sling keeping my arm still while the wounds healed. I don’t think she knew that I had a lot of work to do for the party that was 6 days away and that her vicious attack would put me behind schedule. I don’t think she knew that even if I could find time to blog, I wasn’t inclined to do it with one hand. And in spite of our decorations, I don't think she even knew that Christmas was looming with all that entails.

I do think she knew that she had bitten (and clawed) the hand that feeds her – and sometimes gives her treats.

Our Kitten is named for a character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the character, Hermia, of whom it is said “though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Never was a kitten more aptly named.

So if I haven’t commented on your blog lately or if your Christmas card still hasn’t arrived, now you know why.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Box

I’ve been seeing trailers for the movie The Box. The plot is that a couple is offered $1 million if they push the button on a box. The catch is someone on the planet will die.

So, the question is, would you be willing to let someone die if it means you’d pocket one million dollars?

In a way, it's a laughable proposition. One million dollars isn't even that much anymore. It's a lot. It's enough to pay off my house and our Home Equity Loan and still replace the exterior siding. We would still have enough left over to throw some fresh sod on the front lawn. But it's not the unimaginable sum it once was (as Dr. Evil discovered in the first Austin Powers movie.)






I wouldn't do it for 1 million or 20 million. Not because I'm such a decent human being. More because I don't want to be a really indecent human being.

Although, there are a few people that I would like to see off the planet anyway. So, if I could Nero a thumbs down to those specific people while pocketing $1 million for my suggestion, why not?








But really, other than a common criminal, what kind of a person would take a life for financial gain?



****************




Hey, remember Donald Rumsfeld? It seems this was widespread knowledge but I have only recently learned that he was a former chairman of the company that makes Tamiflu. He left that position to become Secretary of Defense but retained several million dollars worth of stock in the company.


The US Government stocked up on Tamiflu to combat the H1N1 virus but back in 2005 it was stocking up on Tamiflu to combat the Avian flu virus. Crazy coincidence, what with Rummy being part of that administration and all. And remember back in late 2001 when we were ripe to be worked up into a frenzy of fear? We were fearful of envelopes in the mail and salad bars and we hoarded rolls of plastic and duct tape . . . just in case. The threat of biological weapons was just entering the collective consciousness of The Homeland and who knew what man-made plague could be inflicted by the Evil-Doers?



So you have to ask yourself, if there are those willing to concoct nasty viruses for political/religious statements, why not for profit?



I am in no way saying that Rummy had anything to do with the release of a lab-created virus into the general population. I’m just saying that there was a profit to be made and where there’s a profit to be made, anything is possible.



Just saying.


*******************


And while we’re on the topic of Crazy Coincidences, how did you participate in this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Is there really a single person out there who would not be aware of breast cancer were it not for its special corporate sponsored month? Were you also aware that the company that is the principle sponsor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is also responsible for tamoxifen, one of the most commonly used drugs in the treatment of breast cancers? Maybe you don’t see a conflict there. Maybe there’s a conflict in this (from The Sierra Club website)- The primary sponsor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, AstraZeneca (formerly known as Zeneca), is a British-based multinational giant that manufactures the cancer drug tamoxifen as well as fungicides and herbicides, including the carcinogen acetochlor. Its Perry, Ohio, chemical plant is the third-largest source of potential cancer-causing pollution in the United States, releasing 53,000 pounds of recognized carcinogens into the air in 1996.

Maybe there’s a conflict in that information disseminated during Breast Cancer Awareness month never points a finger at environmental carcinogens. It’s all about lifestyle and early testing. It’s all laid at the feet of the patients, never at industrial polluters.

In addition, apparently the Susan G. Komen Foundation (sponsor of The Race for the Cure) also owns stock in AstraZeneca as well as in General Electric, another big time polluter and "one of the largest makers of mammogram machines in the world." For more interesting details on The Komen Foundation, including the foundation’s support of tamoxifen in spite of evidence that its use is implicated in uterine cancers, see here.


*******************

Suddenly, pushing one button and causing the death of a single person in exchange for financial gain seems like such a minor thing compared to the causing the deaths of thousands or millions for the sake of financial gain.



*******************

And to think, some people's biggest fear about healthcare is the possibility of socialized medicine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

CoolWall

I recently received an email from Costco hawking a product called “COOLWALL.” It’s an exterior paint that the manufacturer promises will keep your home cooler and never requires reapplication.

As removing the aluminum siding will be our big project for next year, this could be an interesting product. According to the web site, their dealers must do the application. OK, sounds expensive, but I like the idea that it will never have to be done again. If we go with this product, I just hope we’re happy with the color we choose.

I’m thinking of either Budding Bough or Essex Green -



Here’s their main selling point: “COOLWALL® is a patented, non-toxic, heat-reflective exterior coating that reflects the sun’s heat back into the atmosphere. This unique product reduces the outside wall temperature of your home up to 40ºF, helping your home stay cooler without overloading the air conditioning on even the hottest summer days.”

Interesting. As we’ve elected to forgo air conditioning, this could make a big difference in the months of July, August and September. I’m not sure about that part that claims “heat-reflective exterior coating that reflects the sun’s heat back into the atmosphere.” Is that what the planet needs, to have all this heat bounced back into the atmosphere? Yikes. Is that balanced out by the fact that I’m not eating up energy running an A/C unit? But, isn’t all that heat going back into the atmosphere anyway? Just because my house warms up, that doesn’t mean the planet is staying any cooler, does it? ‘Cause, my house is on the planet, so my house absorbing heat doesn’t take any off the planet, right? Ugh. My head hurts now. Al Gore, call me. I can’t work out this climate math on my own.

If you’ve ever heard of this product or known anyone who has tried it, let me know. I like the idea of only painting my house once but I don’t want to be the 2010 equivalent of those all those suckers that bought aluminum siding.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Twenty Years Later

Today the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Twenty years ago, K and I were living in Germany. We didn’t live in Berlin. We lived almost 300 miles from where the action was happening that day. As I recall, that was about a five-hour train ride. I don’t think we had a television at that time but we listened to the news on radio. We knew we were missing an historic event. It seemed like a shame to miss it. We wanted to be there. Not for any good reason other than just to be there - to later say we were there. We thought about getting on the overnight train.

We didn’t get on the train. We heard the trains that night were packed. We’d heard there were no seats. We’d have to stand through the whole 5-hour trip. We’d have no place to stay once we arrived. We’d likely have to sleep in the train stations or on the sidewalks as we heard so many others were doing. This would all be for the thrill of “being there.”

That night, at about 4 a.m. for us, a friend called from California to ask if we were seeing any of the action. He wasn’t any more clear about our location than our time zone. “No,” we answered. “We’re not even close to it.”

Not boarding the overcrowded trains was a practical decision. Staying home that night was the right thing to do. I hate crowded trains and I knew there was no way I was going to sleep on a sidewalk. Even in my youth I was fussy and a little germaphobic.

We let it go and 8 months later traveled to Berlin for a concert at the site of the downed wall. We collected our own little chunk of it from the rubble that still remained.

While our choice made sense at the time, I’ve always felt a little regretful about that decision - the practical decision – for choosing physical comfort over witnessing history.

Twenty years later, it’s easy to regret not having been there.

In a lifetime, our regrets are probably more often about the choices we didn’t make or the things we didn’t do than about the things we did do. I don’t know if anyone regrets having attended Woodstock. We all know what a muddy, uncomfortable mess that was. But you never hear anyone say, “I wish I’d stayed home.”

It would have been cool to be there. But we weren’t there.

*********************************************


What does this have to do with my house blog? Maybe nothing. Or maybe it’s about those who choose the physical comforts of a large house located in an area of cultural deprivation. Or maybe it’s about those who don’t opt for the turnkey condo, choosing instead the more adventurous path of fixing up an old but interesting home, located in an interesting but perhaps dicey neighborhood.

I often wonder what fun and creative things K and I would have done over the past seven years had we stayed in our apartment.

But hey, twenty years from now, we won’t wonder if we could have made something livable of that fixer upper we passed on.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Porta Potties

I kept seeing this truck full of toilets parked down the street and around the corner and here and there around the neighborhood.

I finally had a chance to take a picture -


It wasn't until I was taking the picture that I saw that the truck once belonged to the City of San Diego -



No big deal.

Bigger deal is that the truck was missing a license plate in front -




and back -


There's a story here. I just wish I knew what it was.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why I Live in Los Angeles

I don't drive in snow. I've never driven in snow. I never will drive in snow. If I ever HAD to drive in snow, I wouldn't. I would just stay in and order Pay per View or something.

I know my limits, especially when it comes to operating machinery and Newton's Laws of Motion.

This kind of stuff is making me stay put:



Loook Ouut!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How I Roll

Change is good. That's why I'm changing up my blog roll a bit. I've added a few new blogs that I've been following, replacing a few others. I find it easier to follow blogs through my own blog roll than via the Google Reader, so the ones I've added are ones I especially want to keep an eye on.

If you notice your own blog gone and want back in, let me know and I'll put it back. If I've never featured your blog but you want a space on my list, let me know that too.

If you're not already familiar with them, I encourage you to visit the new house blogs I've added. At Fun and VJs, Brismod is having fun with her Australian Sow's Ear to Silk Purse transformation. Goddess of 4 is making her magic in my husband's birth state and they're fixin' it up in Toronto at 416 Fixer Upper. When you're tired of watching the progress at other people's houses, check out the art and poetry being conjured up by The Conjurer.

I hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Red House Furniture - Not Just for Red People in Red Houses on Red Hills

The commercial for Cullman Liquidation went over so well, The House on Red Hill would like to bring you this commercial for Red House Furniture:






What a colorful country we live in.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

They're Mobile Homes, not Mansions

I'm not looking for a mobile home, but if I were, that's what he's got.

He owns Cullman Liquidation:




Git y'self a home. Or don't. He don't care.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It Happened to Someone I Know!

Just this past week, a co-worker had to take his cat for emergency care after she got into an Asiatic lily. The kitty spent a night in the hospital, receiving a treatment of IV fluids. Fortunately, she will be fine and is now back home with her very relieved human parents.

A commentor, Dr. Farmer, provided a link to the ASPCA web site (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/17-common-poisonous-plants.html) that includes this helpful YouTube video for an informative visual lesson on toxic plant identification:



Thanks, Dr. Farmer!

While the video is helpful, I don't think it is a thorough discussion so I would add that just because a plant was not included in the video presentation does not mean that is 100% safe for pets.

While we're on the subject, K and I have been planning to get health insurance for the Kitten. We just haven't gotten around to it yet but the ASPCA offers what seems to be a reasonable health plan:
http://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/pet-insurance-default.aspx

I guess we'll do it this week.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Living Room - Part 2

The Details

In my quickie history of our living room, I forgot about the part where the floor was so uneven that no one wanted to install the hardwood floor but then someone did but then our wood was on backorder for ages and ages. For those who must know the gory details, you can read about the floor drama in this post.

But this post will be about the fun stuff. Like about that space above the front door that you may have noticed in the last post -


K thought it was a waste to not use the space above the porch. So he built in some plywood boxes under there -

and that's where we keep stuff we seldom need, like games. That's where we have Jenga and for some reason, Mousetrap.

And speakers for the CD player and radio (no iPods for us, kids) -


See this screen? We got it at a metal supply store -

here's a little close up of the cool pattern -


- a pattern that's repeated in this fence around the corner from us -



There must be a word for that pattern. I see it everywhere now.

Anyway, K spray painted the metal screen bronze, then he built this thing -


And now you know where we hide our games and our stereo speakers -

And this space -


hides our DVDs -


- that was space that opened up when the brick fireplace was removed.


And why is there a hole in the beam above the pocket doors?



for a flap that falls down?


and is held in place by a magnet latch?



What! Is that a screen for the projection TV that K bought at the Good Guys going out of business sale, even though I said we didn't need one?

Why yes! I believe that's exactly what that is! Actually, at the moment it's just a window shade. Once we test out the projection TV (which we haven't) we'll invest in a proper projection screen (maybe). I still don't think we need one. Real TV is good enough for me. But men like their movies big, even if their living rooms are small.

And what's with that wall? Are we going to finish it?


Nope. That's staying just like it is. The only part of the original 1909 construction that remains is the framework and the foundation. Let's pay them a little respect.

Actually, once the frame was exposed, the geometry of it seemed so beautiful, I thought we should leave it -


K liked the idea. He especially likes keeping the old knobs and tubes in. I like staying in touch with the original redwood. Who knows how old those trees were -



It's like an archaeological dig that leaves old pieces of bones and pottery exposed for the appreciation of contemporary viewers.

So now you know the secrets of our living room. Shhh. It's just between you and me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Our Living Room - A History

Anyone who doesn't like seeing Before and After pictures can stop reading right now.

It so happens that today was our Housiversary. We moved into The House on Red Hill seven years ago today. Happy Housiversary to us!

Over the years, I've taken a lot of pictures and the living room seems to be the favorite child. I took 'em so now I'll post 'em.

This one was snapped while the house was still in the hands of the previous owners. I think it was our inspection day:


Go ahead, click on it; make it bigger. Now, I beg you, do not fail to notice:

a) "decorative" beams, painted harsh Kelly Green.

b) paneling, painted glossy bright white (of course)

c) fluorescent light fixture, attached to the ceiling with string

d) electrical wires running to switch along wall's exterior

e) ceiling finished in two types of materials - ceiling tiles and drywall

f) stack of boxes on porch, not in anticipation of imminent move but because adult daughter kept her crafting supplies in boxes all over the house. I don't know what she had but she had a lot of it.

The plastic flowers along the top of the window seem anti-climactic at this point.

This is a picture of the opposite wall. You get a much better view of the light fixture and the Listerine green carpet -

The mirror must be a Feng Shui thing. Couldn't hurt.

We slept in that room for two years while K worked on the master bedroom (which had been a 2nd kitchen). Work took him on the road a lot in those days so the bedroom took a while. During that time, we heard everything on the street from the comfort of our bed. We heard midnight conversations of pedestrians as well as the neighbors who start their cars at 4 am, warming up the engine for 10 minutes or more before leaving for work. Is that really necessary in this climate?

One day, I could no longer stand the bright white paneling. While K was out of town, I went to town with a can of paint. I figured I needed to test possible paint colors anyway. I think this is Majolica Green from Sherwin Williams' Art and Crafts Preservation Palette.


What a huge difference and much easier on the eyes and the soul. But while I liked the color, I didn't think I wanted to live with it on my walls. Good thing I tested.

In November 2007 we demolished all the public rooms.



I'll fast forward through the next 18 months: In goes some insulation -



Up goes the drywall -


Out go the old windows -

Here is my K, either prepping for the new window or just monkeying around. Could be either one -


On goes the paint -


I decided on Sherwin Williams' Tealight. We tested the darker Hubbard Squash on the area where the wainscoting would go. I decided against it for such a large surface. That was probably a mistake and I'll tell you why later.

Up go the red oak panels -


They remained un-stained for quite some time. Like from October of '08 to around May of '09.


But it finally happened -

and now we have this -

and this -


and this -

I think the Tealight color doesn't stand up to the darker paneling. It was fine when everything was white drywall and pale, clean oak. But now it seems to wash out. Depending on the light, it can seem almost white. No wonder all those Arts and Crafts colors are so dark. Oh well. It's fine for now.

Had enough? I'll be back tomorrow with the little details (like why that one wall seems unfinished - but isn't).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More on Those Darned Day Lilies

There must be a reason my career as a scientist never took off. In my last post about the dangers of day lilies, I based my judgement of my flowers on a comparison of pictures I found online. On the other hand, Jan over at Gear Acres took the time to do research on exactly what type of flowers are a danger to cats.

Contrary to my understanding, Jan's research indicates that day lilies, members of the family Hemerocalidaceae, are not toxic to cats. My post linked to a web site that indicts plants of the family Lilium. I failed to make the distinction between the two families. I blame my ability to evade high school biology.

However,
that same web site does state that ". . .some day lilies are toxic to cats causing acute kidney failure." And then that same article links to this web site that quotes a Veterinary Toxicologist at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center saying "Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), Tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum), Rubrum lily (Lilium speciosum), Japanese show lily (Lilium lancifolium) and some species of the Day lily (Hemerocallis species) can cause kidney failure in cats."

I honestly don't know if our plants were day lilies or true lilies. Until about 12 hours ago I didn't know there was a difference. You may have noticed that I can't even decide if "day lily" is one word or two. I do know that my plants grew from rhizomes (I would guess that's why they grew so willingly) but the flowers seemed to last 2 or 3 days, not a single day as Jan said a day lily lasts (and as the colloquial name would indicate).

I agree with Jan that I would hate to see people pull up their day lilies based on mistaken identity. But, I would rather lose a few flowers than have my Kitten or a neighborhood cat suffer a horrible fate while I did a little more research.

Thanks to Jan (dynochick) for the feedback and for expanding the discussion.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Beware the Deadly Daylily!

In a post last July, I named the Orange Daylilies that grow in my front yard as something that makes me happy. Every once in a while they're just there, effortlessly blooming, all on their own . . .


When the flowers die and the long leaves become scraggly, I cut them back and before I know it, the flower is there again, as beautiful as before.

Well . . . yesterday the Husband takes the Kitten to the Vet for her annual visit. In the vet's office is a poster of plants poisonous to pets and pictured on that poster is our lovely friend, Orange Daylily or Hemerocalis fulva.

How poisonous is it? According to the Kitten's doctor, ingesting the leaves or flowers will kill a cat. But the plants have been our yard for years. The Kitten's roamed among them for over three years now. We've been lucky the vet says. In fact, a cat can be poisoned by just rubbing against the plant and later licking pollen from her fur. According to this article, without treatment, cats will quickly die of kidney failure. According to that same article, the whole lilium family is toxic to cats.

We've been very lucky indeed. Plus, we have a whole neighborhood of cat visitors that have also been lucky.

Today the daylilies were removed - they were in full bloom, too. I went to work in the morning and when I returned they were gone. The Husband is not one to waste time, especially when it comes to the Kitten.

I didn't even say goodbye.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Voting Begins at One Project Closer!

It's time to vote for your favorite Before & After home transformations at
One Project Closer. I won't ask for your vote. You can make up your own mind. I'll just ask you to check out the contestants and get an eyeful of great before and after photos all in one place.

And remember, the point of the contest is to raise donations and awareness for the work done by Habitat for Humanity. Check out their web site as well. I know you know what great work they do but every once in a while, we all need a reminder.





Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eureka! Fern Canyon and a Glimpse of Redwoods

This is my last post about my August trip to Eureka and then I'll shut up. It deserves three posts because there was so much to say about it.

On two separate afternoons I did something I rarely do; I spent time outdoors. I'm not outdoorsy; never have been; everyone can get over it; it's just not my thing. I donate to The Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace, The Natural Resources Defense Council. I prefer to support Nature in that "Let me write you a check" kind of way.

However . . . my life in California has been woefully deprived of redwoods. And while there was not enough time in this trip to really do redwoods right, I did have a chance to spend an afternoon walking around Sequoia Park. The park is like a tiny little forest within the city of Eureka. In way, it's kind of like a Disney forest, full of beautiful things to see, but totally safe (no bears, no pumas*, no way to get lost).

We parked near a pond and stepped into the woods -

There were many paths to explore -




and ancient, exposed roots for him and me to climb -


Ferns grew in damp, grottoes fed by trickles that appeared out of nowhere -




and all around us light filtered through shades of green -



Bye trees! I'll visit you again one day!

The next day, we took a drive (a long drive) to Fern Canyon. Fern Canyon is exactly that. It's literally a canyon of ferns. Even Wikipedia doesn’t have much more to say about it.

Here's the path. See those plants growing on the walls of the canyon? Ferns. All ferns. Miles and miles of ferns.



The evading figure below is my sister doing her best Bigfoot impression. There's a lot of Bigfoot lore in the area but I believe she wears a size 6 shoe so she can't be blamed -

See this romantic pair? Us. This was the one time I forgot to ask, "does this denim jacket wrapped around my waist make me look fat?" Bigfoot should have said something before she snapped the picture -


This kind of looks like that tree army in The Lord of the Rings -

The next time I go to Fern Canyon, I'll have a better breakfast, a lighter jacket and an earlier start. There's a lot of trail and we did maybe a fifth of it. The worst part? Not very elegant restrooms. I think that may be one of the things that keeps me out of the outdoors.
All over the place in Humboldt County, even in the forest, we saw these tsunami warning signs (I love the little guy frantically climbing that hill ahead of that ginormous wave) -

Don't even think of finding shelter at the Post Office -

Speaking of little guy, what about this one who finds shelter in a rose? -

I didn't kiss him but he seems to lead a pretty princely life.

It took me a long time to get up to Humboldt County. But it won't take me that long to get back.

I confess, I'm hooked on the beauties of Humboldt County. This post joins the Friday blog parties at Hooked on Houses and The Inspired Room’s Beautiful Life Friday. Do check them out to see what others are hooked on and where others find beauty.

* Correction: At 8:30 this morning I realized how ridiculous the reference to pumas was. Aren't mountain lions mostly desert dwellers? If I'd visualized the forest-dwelling puma attack before typing, I would have realized that. But it was 2:00 in morning so I'll cut myself some slack. I should have written "deer." I think I heard that more Americans are attacked by angry deer each year than by bears and mountain lions combined. I don't blame them. I, myself, am quite often angered by the sight of anyone wearing orange.