Sleeping Late

Alexander doesn’t sound too happy this morning, but I am. It’s been great to sleep late in the mornings, hang out with Jennifer and Lee, interrogate them about the joys and travails of parenthood, and eat plenty of food. Yesterday Dave and I didn’t get up until 10:30 and we didn’t make it out of the house for coffee until 11:30. We stopped at a really cute coffee stand and I had an excellent latte. Then to another terrific family-owned business, a pastry shop, where I had a cherry turnover. We looked around St. Joseph, walked on the beach in the cold November wind, and walked up and down the cute little main street. It’s terrific for Jennifer and Lee to be living so close to the water, which they both love. I was surprised to see very few ethnic restaurants, but I guess I’m spoiled, living in Boulder and traveling for work to big cities every several months. It makes sense that there aren’t a lot of Nepalese restaurants in the Midwest.

I can hear Lee singing The Turkeys on the Bus to Alexander, who is still making annoyed whines. You guessed it—the turkeys go gobble-gobble-gobble. It’s terribly cute. And it happened more naturally than I expected. One day we were whitewater rafting and the next we’re all singing at and poking at the baby.

Yesterday we had dinner at an Italian restaurant (I had fettuccine primavera) and then headed to the bowling alley, but you had to have cash to bowl and none of us had any. We almost always go bowling when we see each other, so we’ll probably go back today. We’ll also head over to the library, which is just across the street from the housing development—a wonderful feature! Jennifer and Lee have plenty of space in their new house and they’re close to work, shopping, and the beach. Nice.

On the Road

Well, just for the novelty, I’m blogging from the road. It’s 9:00 a.m., Mountain Standard Time, on Thanksgiving, and Dave and I are in Illinois, nearly to Chicago. We started driving in Boulder at about 5:30 p.m. last night, and, save a brief mistake that took us out of our way, we’ve been heading to Jennifer and Lee’s since then. We’re actually in Central time at the moment, and we’ll switch to Eastern time when we get to Michigan. I was really tired around 7:30 p.m. last night, but Dave said I’d get used to driving relentlessly in the dark, and he was right. He drove until about 11:30, when we stopped for gas and dinner: the sandwiches we made from fixings in the cooler (turkey and roast beef with cheese and condiments, on burrito shells). I took over driving until 1:30 a.m., at which point I was clutching the steering wheel and staring fixedly ahead. Dave had been sleeping soundly while I listened to a book on CD, The Wal-Mart Effect. I pulled into a rest station and we switched drivers. I slept like a rock until 3:30 a.m., when he pulled into a rest stop. For some reason, I was wide awake once I’d gone to the bathroom. This rest stop in the middle of Iowa was clean and new, and, best of all, had a coffee machine! I remember those from my childhood, although I don’t remember from where. Maybe the DMV or somewhere else “grown up.” I bought a truly dreadful English toffee fakuccino for $.85. It was just as fun as always to watch the cup drop and then the door open. The whole thing was much cleaner than I remembered from decades ago. I wondered briefly if our kids would ever see a coffee machine. We got back into the car and I drove until 6:30 a.m. or so—through my favorite time to drive, sunrise. And it was just gorgeous! First I realized that I could see dark clouds where before there had only been dark. Then the sky progressively lightened into a pale gray and then into sunset—first pinks and blues and then deeper and deeper pinks, verging on orange. Every few moments it was totally changed, although I could never see the transition. I woke Dave up several times to look. Finally, the sunset flamed out with a massive ball of deep, glowing orange sun, like an electric tangerine hovering at the horizon.

sunset
sunrise

We switched drivers again, got coffee, and I’ve been napping. Dave’s iPod ran out of battery, so we’re letting my shuffle choose songs for us. (Happily, the rented Dodge Avenger has an auxiliary connection for the iPods and cruise control, although everything else is less than stellar.) The traffic is thickening—we’re near Chicago—but the drive has been uneventful so far, with no weather and a few pleasant moments, like the sunset and crossing the Mississippi. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner, seeing Jennifer and Lee, and playing with the baby!

Thisssss One’s for Mom and Don

Mom and Don came to visit, as they always do, this fall. It was October already by the time we got to see them. We had a great time: good food (including all of our favorite restaurants), a nice hike (I was at work, alas), a trip up to the Great Stupa at Redfeather Lakes, and time to chat (never enough). As exciting as a political conversation about babies in day care is (and Don and I enjoyed it very much over beer/margaritas at Efrain’s), it was at home that the major excitement occurred. We were all getting ready to go somewhere or other, but Mom and Don had beaten Dave and me to the front room. Mom opened the door, and that’s when

THE YELLING STARTED!

“A snake, a snake; a snake is coming in the door!” Mom yelled.

Don yelled something like, “Where’s the snake?” Then he yelled some more. There was general commotion. Mom kept yelling, “in the door!” Water was suddenly sploshing everywhere, I caught a quick glimpse of Don with the white plastic watering can in his hand, and the door was banged closed.

Dave and I had been keeping to the living room, incredulously watching the scene unfolding in front of us. Once the fuss died down, it turned out that Mom had opened the front door and our friendly garter snake had made a beeline for the front room. Don didn’t believe that the snake was actually coming in, and he figured it was probably just a worm when Mom started yelling about a snake COMING IN. So when the snake got past the threshold and he realized that it was no worm, he tried to grab it and then grabbed the watering can. Between his hands and the can, he managed to toss the snake out into the yard. He also managed to splash water all over. We pointed out where we thought the snake had been hiding, along the house. We see him pretty frequently—although never inside!

Update

The other weekend, I was painting the trim on the front windows when I saw our snake. I remembered that the camera was in the car, so I took a couple of photos of him hiding at the base of the mum to show Mom and Don. He got nervous and started to slither away, toward the front door. What the heck? Was he heading toward the concrete stoop and driveway, where it would be hard to stay out of sight? I kept snapping photos until he poked his head…and then more of his body…and then more of his body…and then more, and more, into a little hole beneath the door frame. I’m inclined to let him stay. He’s very beautiful and I imagine he eats bugs trying to get in the front door. I just hope he doesn’t make another break for it.

The Second Weekend of November and the First Blog

Hi everyone! I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while, but it never seemed like the right time. Nothing momentus ever happened. Well, nothing momentus enough. On the other hand, Dave and I would like to keep in touch with all of you, so I guess now is as good a time as any to begin. I can warm up for the inevitable New Year’s resolution, in which I promise to blog every day. Which will likely last, as these things do, until the second week of January. Maybe you can keep me honest.

Hi everyone! I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while, but it never seemed like the right time. Nothing momentus ever happened. Well, nothing momentus enough. On the other hand, Dave and I would like to keep in touch with all of you, so I guess now is as good a time as any to begin. I can warm up for the inevitable New Year’s resolution, in which I promise to blog every day. Which will likely last, as these things do, until the second week of January. Maybe you can keep me honest.

We had a reasonably eventful weekend, actually. After some discussion, I wound up riding Tatonka to work on Friday because Dave had to go back to the doctor for a week-long sore throat, so he needed to drive Taco. I couldn’t ride the bus because I had a Rowman & Littlefield reunion to attend after work. I’ve only been gone four months, but several friends and I had been planning to get as many ex-R&L-ers together as we could. We thought of more than fifty people who have passed through the Boulder office! We wound up with thirteen people that evening, and we had a lovely time at Dolan’s, which Dave calls the “old people’s steakhouse.” (He might have stolen that from someone.) I’d never been there before, but the happy hour prices were great and there’s a cool room way at the back that easily accommodated us. Anyway, I had fun catching up with old friends, and I was among the last group to leave. When I got out to the parking lot, my motorcycle wouldn’t start! It tried to turn over a couple of times early on, but mostly made a “cccccccc” sound when I pressed the starter. I took out my “MOM” (motorcycle owner’s manual) and tried to find the problem. The manual mentioned that the engine might be flooded, so I followed the instructions for fixing that, to no avail. I went back into the restaurant and called Dave to tell him what was going on, and then I gathered up my helmet and two motorcycle bags, which I didn’t want to leave out overnight. I headed for the bus home. I was walking down the wrong side of the road when I saw the bus, behind me a bit. I managed, miraculously, to cross the road before the bus and took off running to get to the stop. Running in motorcycle boots is uncomfortable and it was really awkward with all that stuff in my hands. I could tell I wasn’t going to make it, and the bus only comes once an hour, so I was feeling pretty dejected (while still running). But the bus pulled up next to me and the door opened! The driver shouted, “I wasn’t going to make you run all that way!”

Perhaps my luck had turned! I got on, set my stuff down, and found the right change in my jacket–another surprise, since I don’t usually have cash. The driver told me that he’s a biker and he stopped because he saw my helmet. “Where’s the bike?” he wanted to know. I explained about the noise and he said that the battery must be dead. He said I could buy another one at Wal-Mart, much cheaper than going to a bike shop. I said, “But what if I don’t shop at Wal-Mart?” and the only other guy on the bus pointed at me and said “right on.” Then he pulled the cord and got off. The bus driver–Michael–and I got to chatting about bikes and his previous life. He rides a Harley, has been in two bad accidents, and keeps a couple of Hondas around to work on. He did a stint as a physicist, working on lasers, in California, but quit when he realized that his co-workers never got his jokes. Plus, he was just doing the work to make his dad proud. He quit the high-paying job, sold his house, moved to Boulder, and still enjoys driving a bus, because he likes to be around people and, as a little kid, he always thought it would be cool to drive something that big. Did I believe him? Mostly. Let’s say this: I really wanted to believe him. And I was pleased to hear that his dad wasn’t disappointed.

It turned out that the bus route was to Erie, which is nearby, but isn’t Lafaytte, where I was trying to go. So Michael let me off as close to home as the route went, at the King Soopers where I usually buy groceries. (Dad, if you’re reading this, it’s at Baseline and 287.) I called Dave to pick me up, which didn’t take too long. The next morning I woke up worrying about Tatonka. Dave had a meeting with some church folks at a coffee shop in Lafayette, so we had breakfast together (Santiago’s burritos–the cheapest and best breakfast in town!) and then parted ways. I drove into Boulder and discovered that CU was playing football at home that afternoon. That meant that Dolan’s was renting parking spaces for $15, but luckily my bike was still there and wasn’t ticketed. I took out the battery, following the instructions in my MOM closely, and making due with the tools I had. I brought some extra sockets, but I brought the wrong wrench and couldn’t attach them. I ended up making a handle of sorts by jamming an Allen key into the end of the socket and holding my breath. It worked! I learned a few interesting things about some tools I should add to the kit that came with the bike. I drove the battery over to Powersports, where I bought Tatonka. They confirmed that the battery was dead and sold me a new one (at, I later discovered, a very steep markup!) and a trickle charger, which I’d been meaning to get anyway. Since the guy told me the battery needed to be charged, which he told me would take six hours, I met Dave and we headed home. What do you know? It was charged in about an hour, so I’m sure it would’ve started the bike. Oh, well. I learned another interesting thing about not buying stuff without looking around first, even if you’re eager to get your bike home safely in the garage.

New topic, having to do with Saturday afternoon.

We recently had the house painted, and it’s gorgeous. The main color is Wine Barrel, which is a red with a lot of brown. The trim is Mountain Elk, a green with a lot of gray. We generally do home improvements ourselves, and were totally thrilled to come home each day to see more and more of the house painted. Without us doing anything! If you’re in the Boulder area and need a painter, we recommend Bill Wilson of We Bee Paintin’. He was terrific and reasonably priced. (Plus he’s a Browns fan!) However, we had asked him to match the paint scheme of the houses next door, so he’d painted some of the window trim Wine Barrel. We decided that we wanted it to be Mountain Elk instead. I wanted to get it done before the winter, so we wouldn’t be putting new paint on a slightly faded house. (Even in the winter, the sun is out almost every day, and the UV is powerful!) So I went out and painted the first coat of most of the trim. That felt like a good accomplishment, and then we drove into town to put the new battery into Tatonka. It didn’t take too long to reverse the process, with better tools this time, and it sure was nice to hear the engine start up!

Then we headed over to church for a concert. Our music director, Jim, is just terrific, and he has a bunch of talented friends. This concert featured him on piano, our organist, Kristina, on organ, and dynamic soprano Julie Mark, singing the heck out of some opera music. How nice to hear live music on a Saturday night! We got home in time to watch Eastern Promises, our newest Netflix rental. I’d heard that I’d have the pleasure of seeing Viggo Mortensen in his altogether (albeit in a knife fight in a sauna), so I’d been wanting to see it. Too much gore in places, although I suspect that’s normal in a Russian gangster movie. I think I ended up liking it more than Dave did, even though I thought it ended right in the middle of the story. And of course, as always, he had to explain who was who the whole time and what the heck they were talking about. I’m one of those people who never figures out the answer to the murder mystery until the author tells me…and sometimes I don’t even really understand it then.

Sunday

Sunday was nice too. I woke up at 8:00 a.m. with the sun in my eyes, so I got up and made this frittata I’ve been wanting to cook. I was looking for a recipe that includes both pumpkin and zucchini (two vegetables that seem to work in my garden). You brown the vegetables and then pour eggs mixed with cream and feta cheese in with the veggies. Then bake. The Australian recipe I got online said “in a moderately hot oven.” The translating from metric to English wasn’t too hard (thanks to Google), but since I’m not a grandma yet, I don’t understand directions like “a pinch,” “moderately hot,” or “until it’s workable.” I tried 350 and, lo and behold, it worked! I thought it was delicious, especially with pepper. Dave thought it was too sweet, but ate it anyway. He’s such a good guy! Then we went to church and listened to a great sermon that tied chosing to live as God asks (the five silly and five wise bridesmaids) with stewardship. (I also spent plenty of time making faces at John Brinkman, our friends’ six-month-old. He was in a great mood and wearing little overalls with a football on them and a matching shirt. How could I resist?) Then I dropped Dave at The Laughing Goat, a terrific coffee shop in town (Best. lattes. ever. Well, okay, they’re really good at Amante and Trident and Vic’s, too.) I went home to finish the painting, which included trying to surprise Dave by painting the trim on the two high windows that our ladder wouldn’t reach. I sat on the windowsill and leaned out. (Carefully, Mom.) I also did the second coat on yesterday’s work. And then a second coat on the high windows.

It was 3:30 by the time I was done, so I drove into town to meet Dave, Ben, Christina, Elijah, and Matt for a bit of soccer. It was a gorgeous day, warm enough for short sleeves, even for me. I remember that November 1 was that warm, and now we’re already at November 9 and the sun is still out! The weather is supposed to turn crummy tomorrow. After soccer we had some dinner (Little Ceasar’s Hot and Ready pizza) and watched some Sunday night football (the Giants beat the Eagles). Now I’m here, starting a blog. Not too shabby! I think I’m even ready for work tomorrow. It’s a three-day week because we’re headed to Portland. But more on that later.

Our house, pre-paint job, showing the new colors. (Thanks, Mom and Don!) Pink. We were ready for a change.
Our house, pre-paint job, showing the new colors. (Thanks, Mom and Don!) Pink...we were ready for a change.

Bathroom Overhaul!

The Original Vinyl Shower Surround
The Original Vinyl Shower Surround

Wow!  Have you ever set out to tackle a home improvement project and felt like you were trundling a large boulder off a steep cliff?  (Actually illegal in Colorado)  Well, we certainly have.  We’d been planning to replace the cheap vinyl shower enclosure in our upstairs bathroom for some time, and a convergence of guests arriving around the July 4th holiday seemed like the perfect deadline/excuse for the task.  I insisted on starting about a month before our guests were to arrive, but Jess was certain that this was far more “contingency” time than could possibly be required.  How wrong she was!

Of course, if the project’s scope had remained constant, Jess would have been correct, but this project, like so many others, developed a life of its own. As we began the demolition, crossing the point-of-no-return, it became apparent that we were in for more than just tiling the shower enclosure.

Just Past the Point of no Return
Just Past the Point of no Return

We began by disassembling the existing hot/cold faucets and the tub filler sport. With the hardware out of the way, we turned our attention to the 3-piece vinyl shower enclosure. Grabbing the enclosure by the outside corners we quickly tore it away from the wall in large pieces.  The vinyl had become brittle and cracked in several places as it was pried from the underlying drywall.  Once the surround had been removed we took to the existing drywall with sledge hammers and fists, quickly filling the little room with dust and debris. Before too much time had passed we were rewarded with a lovely view of the interior walls surrounding our bathtub.

Next we prepped the walls for the tile by wrapping the entire wall with asphalt roofing paper.  The paper was applied in two long sheets that overlapped by several inches at the middle and fastened to the studs with an industrial staple gun. We marked the location of the studs on the roofing paper and cut and hung several sheets of 1/2″ Hardibacker directly to the studs. The tile I had selected was a rather heavy glazed porcelain available in several colors from Lowes and the backer board was essential if the new walls were to be capable of supporting the heavy tile work. After hanging the backer board, it was apparent that the new walls did not match up with the existing walls. This was due in part to our attempts to fix the terribly out-of-plumb walls and the faux plaster texture on the existing walls. Because of these two problems we decided to replace the remainder of the two walls adjacent the shower enclosure, and we stripped the faux texture from the wall opposite the shower. A couple of hours of additional demolition work, another trip to Home Depot, and a precarious drive home with several sheets of 1/2″ green board tied to the roof of Taco (our 2000 Dodge Neon), and we were ready to replace the drywall.

Four Tiles Down and About a Thousand to Go!
Four Tiles Down and About a Thousand to Go!

Of course, about this time we realized that we should really add a ceiling fan/overhead light to the bathroom.  For some reason the bathroom has never had any ventilation, and in the winter, this really causes problems.  The bathroom becomes extremely steamy and when the door open it sets of smoke detectors all over the house. While it’s nice to test the smoke detectors from time-to-time, 6:30 in the morning isn’t a universally accepted time!

The floor in the bathroom has always been an embarrassingly dingy black and white vinyl tile affair, and occasional leaks have brought water into the kitchen via the ceiling.  We knew that this was the proper time to do something with the floor, so about 6

Cutting Away the Water Damaged Subfloor
Cutting Away the Water Damaged Subfloor

additional trips to Home Depot and Lowes solidified a design that would use 12″ x 12″ glazed porcelain tiles that matched the tiles used in the shower enclosure.  Of course, when we removed the toilet and vanity, we discovered that the years of sloppy shower taking and the poorly constructed floor had led to extensive

water damage.  There was no way that we could simply ignore the problem, so a jigsaw and eventually a sawzall was needed to remove all of the rotten subfloor, and a patch was cut to size from 3/4″ plywood.  The patch actually spanned 2 floor joists and was pretty solid, but some additional support was necessary where the new subfloor met the existing subfloor at the edge of the tub.  A 2×4 was cut to span the joint and screwed into the existing subfloor on either side of the patch.  The new patch was then fastened to the 2×4 in order to provide some additional support.  A final touch was the liberal use of leveling compound to further repair the damaged subfloor.

After the leveling compound was dry, we attached 2 sheets of 1/4″ thick Hardibacker to the subfloor.  A cut-out for the closet flange (toilet drain) was made in one of the pieces of backer board, and the 2nd piece was trimmed slightly to match the small bathroom footprint.  Additional cuts were necessary for the hot and cold supply lines that energe from the floor under the vanity. The backer board was positioned perpendicular to the patch in the subfloor in order to add additional stability.

Jess Checks Out the Water Damage
Jess Checks Out the Water Damage

After the subfloor had been repaired and prepped for tile, the rest of the floor was actually quite easy. The large (12″ square) tiles we chose for the floor were very quick to install, and only a few needed to be cut on the wet saw. At that point, we installed the new combination vent/fan and grouted the shower enclosure and floor. After a couple of days, we were able to walk on the floor again, so we were right back to work taping the drywall and prepping everything for a nice paint job. Jess helped me pick out a nice tan color that complimented the tile design, and the Home Depot color computer picked out something vaguely whitish to go with the main color. I was pretty tired of being in the bathroom by this point, so Jess finished most of the painting, and in a nick of time. The day before the first of our July 4th guests were due to arrive, we scrambled to install the new vanity and sink in order to have a fully functional bathroom. Even with all of our hard work, we weren’t quite able to finish on time. We ran into some difficulties getting the new sink drain to align with the old p-trap and had to get creative with some flexible plumbing, and the sink wasn’t yet glued to the top of the vanity. We also hadn’t painted the ceiling either, but at least you could shower, and the bathroom looked a thousand times better.

The New Vanity, Floor, and Towel Bar
The New Vanity, Floor, and Towel Bar
The New Shower Tile
The New Shower Tile