Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If you're wondering what a cenote is . . .

They are huge sinkholes that form when the ceiling of limestone caves collapse, exposing underground water. They are like the inverse of Karst topography, which is also on the list. This is one we visited near Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula:

They can be hundreds of feet deep and they tell you to wear a life vest because they will make no attempt to rescue you. Don't you want to swim in one, too?

Monday, September 26, 2011

This has almost nothing to do with the house

Feel free to skip reading this one.

Much of my life has been spent being cautious. I'm a worrier, I'm clumsy, I'm broke, I'm afraid to fly, I always have a lot of reasons for not doing stuff. I've had people tell me I'm boring (which is so rude! and not true!). At some point about five years ago I decided to stop being afraid of stupid stuff. It's okay to be afraid of flying because that shit can actually kill you. But being afraid of karaoke? Unless there's a freak gasoline fight accident at the karaoke bar, you're not going to die. So I finally sang at karaoke and, indeed, I didn't die. Not even of embarrassment! I did other stuff like eating dinner at a restaurant by myself and buying a house. I may be boring but it takes guts to buy a fixer. I've established that here, right?

Then last fall the boy took me to Hawaii with his parents and I flew over the ocean, something I was really nervous about. At the time I joked that if he took me to the all-you-can-eat fried shrimp buffet at The Sizzler, he would have officially fulfilled all of my childhood dreams. But I lied. I'd also need tap dancing lessons. Hawaii, fried shrimp, and tap dancing. This little girl dreamed big.

Maggie over at Mighty Girl created a Mighty List of 100 things to do before she dies, which is a familiar riff on the bucket list. Lots of people make lists (you should in particular check out Jess' 30-while-she's-30 and Amy's life list) but Maggie's is fun to follow because she has corporate sponsorship so she goes amazing places and tells you what she wore.

I started thinking about what would be on my list and looking at other people's lists. It's fun because I've already done some of the stuff that other people want to do. I've done a night swim with manta rays (terrifying and awesome). I've run a 5K and learned sign language. I've grown my own vegetables and made my own limoncello and held adult dinner parties. I've rewired a lamp, seen the Northern Lights, bought a house, and taken hip hop classes. Reading these lists makes me feel way better about my life, which has made me pretty happy so far but still seems boring to other people. I'm not a thrill seeker, so sky diving or bungee jumping won't make my list, though I highly recommend going ziplining to anyone who hasn't tried it. I had to consciously avoid putting things on the list that I thought I *should* do, like hang gliding. That doesn't mean I won't do it at some point, but I don't need to do it before I die to feel content. Also, I love having toenails so running a marathon will never make this list. And why would I run when I can take Zumba classes?

A lot of this is aspirational stuff I've always dreamed about (Italy, manatees) and other stuff is more banal but somehow it hasn't happened yet.

So here's my Mighty List, in no particular order and still in progress:
  1. Go to Hawaii (done 10/10!)
  2. Unlimited fried shrimp at The Sizzler
  3. Take tap dancing lessons
  4. Spend an entire day making bolognese and homemade pasta, drinking wine, and watching The Godfather 1&2 with friends (I did something similar once and it was awesome).
  5. Go to Italy (just done 09/11! ohmygod!)
  6. Visit New York City
  7. Refinish the floors in the house
  8. Road trip of the States
  9. Learn how to can food
  10. Successfully make a boule of bread (mine are always flat)
  11. Bike to a picnic in the park
  12. Vacation on Isla Mujeres
  13. Learn to walk naturally in heels
  14. See Glacier National Park before all the glaciers melt
  15. Learn to salsa dance confidently
  16. Make a pie for someone else, which means not eating a single bite myself
  17. Vacation with my mom
  18. Pay off my credit card debt
  19. Roast my own coffee beans
  20. Learn to crochet
  21. See the manatees in Florida (sea cows, how I love you!)
  22. Learn to type without looking
  23. Take piano lessons
  24. See Machu Picchu
  25. Set foot in seven continents
  26. Croissants in Paris. Remember it fondly afterward with some International Coffee.

  27. Kayak a major body of water
  28. Complete the 3 day Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure
  29. See the Grand Canyon
  30. Get a role in a musical
  31. Attend a seder
  32. Catch a fish
  33. Attend a Dia de los Muertos celebration in Mexico
  34. See the Karst topography in China

  35. Photo yanked from here
  36. Swim in a cenote
  37. Go backpacking again
  38. Take one of my nieces or nephews on an awesome trip
  39. Make my own mozzarella cheese
  40. Have a dinner party and not feel disappointed about how some of the food came out.
  41. Happy hour oysters at Cafe Nell
  42. Camp on the southern Oregon coast
  43. Take a painting class
  44. Learn how to swim, for reals (I *love* being in the water but I do this sad mashup between the breast stroke and doggie paddle and I'd be screwed if I ever needed to get somewhere quickly.)
  45. Get my yard prettified enough to be featured on a garden tour . . .
  46. . . . and then invite LeAnn over for cocktails
  47. Float in the Dead Sea
  48. Sew a sundress
  49. Visit my family in Scotland
  50. Go to Japan
  51. Helicopter ride in Hawaii
  52. Have a ladies-only tea party in the garden where we all wear dresses and eat little sandwiches.
  53. Curry at HA & VL
  54. Take a vacation with Bill
  55. Make pizza on the barbecue
  56. Host a board game night
  57. Find the perfect jeans
  58. Learn how to hit a baseball/softball
  59. Play craps (it's look like so much fun in the movies . . . until something TERRIBLE happens)
  60. Tea in the Chinese garden
  61. Indian food at Vij's in Vancouver
Just a heads up: If you have "take a road trip to all the Sizzlers in the US" on your life list, there's a trip planner on their site. Nothing is stopping you now!

Anybody else have a mighty/bucket list?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hey! There's our house!

IFC has posted a sneak preview for season 2 of Portlandia and you can see our house!

Specifically, you can see them talking in our kitchen (including the window trim with a thousand different test paint strips:

In the front of our house:

My water heater straps are finally getting their 15 minutes!

Also: Greg's couch and our rotting front window!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I love this.

Gigantic pots in the garden, spotted at the Bardini gardens in
Florence. I want. While we're wanting, I also want marble statues and
a water feature depicting a lion vomiting water that forms a river.
That's all I want. And all of those things are possible because I saw
them here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I heart Florence

We're thinking a little something like this for the dining room ceiling.
Ha ha, just kidding. I'm never coming back! I'm going to live in the
Duomo and you can't stop me!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm not sure why I was worried.

Cookies abound in Amsterdam! Every time you order coffee they give you
a little one.
I love Amsterdam.

Monday, September 12, 2011

File under: good to know

I'm preparing to leave for our trip to Europe so instead of learning how to say, "Yes, I'd love mayonnaise on that" in Dutch I've been doing stupid things like cleaning out the garage in 96 degree heat. For unknown reasons I decided to take all the random wood and building supplies we have in the garage to The Rebuilding Center. I guess I thought they'd get up to no good while we were gone? Then I vacuumed the garage because home improvement isn't fun unless vacuuming is involved. And you know what? That garage doesn't look any better. It's still cluttered and full of boxes. And I still don't know how to say "cookies" in Dutch. WHAT IF WE NEED TO FIND COOKIES IN AMSTERDAM?

Because my day hadn't been awful enough, I headed to Ikea to scope out a new desk for the office. And I figured if I had to contend with slow-moving crowds I might as well go when I'm really dirty and sweaty. Maybe people would stay out of my way then? (They didn't.) I made my way home with a Micke desk and proceeded to sweat and swear my way through assembling it. This desk almost bested me.
More like BESTÃ…'d me, amiright?
Also: I forgot how bad Ikea furniture smells and how long it off-gasses. Keep this in mind because I'm going to blame what happened next on glue fumes.

I wanted to clean the house before leaving so we could relax when we get home from our trip. The bathroom sink drain has been a little bit smelly and a tiny bit slow lately. At this point I'd like to remind you of the last time I decided to meddle with a drain that was a little bit slow. I ended up with a completely backed up drain and a sink dripping Drano everywhere. Because I never learn I decided to try a trick I read about on the Internet: vinegar and boiling water down the drain. Easy peasy!

As I poured boiling water down the drain I heard a deafening CRACK! but I couldn't figure out what it was. The pipe looked fine, the sink looked fine . . . except for the hairline crack that was slowly growing across the bottom. Yup, I cracked my sink. My sink, it turns out, is made of vitreous china and vitreous china cracks under high heat.

Fuck. Me. And fuck you, Internet. You're doing me wrong lately.

On the plus side, now the drain looks like it wants to huuuuugggg you!

So now I have a caulked sink (which looks AWESOME) and the possibility of hiring a refinisher to repair this thing correctly. Or I might get to replace the sink completely.

So. Scream it from the mountaintops:

1. Don't use Drano.
2. Don't pour hot water down your drains unless you're positive your sink isn't made of vitreous china.
3. Don't dye your favorite jeans purple.
4. Choose a desk other than the Micke if you don't believe in swearing.
5. Cookies = koekjes. Don't ask me how to pronounce it, though.

Be ye not so stupid!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Say hello to my little friend

How was your labor day weekend? Mine was stressful. We came home Friday night from a lovely accidental date at Yakuza. Service is so slow you wonder if they forgot about you, or maybe they're mad at you? Either way dinner lingers a long time and it's so dark that it feels very romantic. Greg and I got into a little pissing match about modern design and who knows more (me, always me) and we ate fantastic burgers. But then we got home and found this little guy in our side yard.

If you have any soul at all you are weeping right now. It was the saddest thing. I ransacked the cabinets for a can of tuna and pulled out a cardboard box and a blanket. She wolfed the tuna but didn't know what to do with the box. She sat on our back deck and looked at us through the screen door, mewling sadly at us.

"Heather, I don't want a cat. Stop looking at me like that." Greg is such a dude.

The next morning she seemed to have taken off. I was worried and kind of relieved. But then it turned out she was just in the side yard! I fed her more tuna and then she climbed up into my lap. She had on nothing but a flea collar but it was clear that she was someone's house cat. She was so sweet. On the advice of a friend I called Oregon Humane Society and left a message asking to set up a drop-off time for her. OHS is a no-kill shelter and I knew she'd get snapped up right away.

And I waited for a call. And I waited for a call. And the call never came. In the meantime, I asked Facebook and Twitter for ideas to rehome her and everyone was spectacularly unhelpful, instead telling me, "Yay, you have a kitteh!" Actually, Internet, we have this huge trip planned and we can't adopt a cat who may or may not be litter box-trained, and leave her in our empty house for two weeks. A friend even offered to kick in money for a kitty hotel while we're gone. But you know what kitties need before they go to a kennel? Innoculations and vaccinations and a whole host of documentation we don't have. It's kind of impossible for us to adopt right now.

I bought real cat food and spent hours scanning missing cat ads and calling people who sounded like they might be possible fits. I discovered that people are spectacularly bad at describing their pets: "cat-sized cat." "Calico-colored cat." "Wearing a collar unless it fell off." I spoke with a woman for about 15 minutes who had lost, then found her pet. We lamented how frustrating the county website is and she wept while she told me about losing, then finding, her cat. In the meantime our stray cat sat on our deck, not making any attempt to find her way home.

On Sunday I tricked the sweet cat (I'd begun calling her Stevie in my brain) into a carrier and took her down to Dove Lewis to see if she was microchipped. She bawled the entire way there. I have never heard such sad noises come from an animal and it was brutal. At Dove Lewis they scanned her and found no chip. Then the very sweet vet tech told me that OHS doesn't take stray cats, they only take owner surrenders. My only option was to take her to the county shelter (the one where 50% of cats are euthanized).

"The one that closed 30 minutes ago?"
"Uh huh."
"Is it closed on Labor Day?"
"Uh huh."

I burst into tears. I took poor Stevie home and released her back into the yard. I thought she would try to claw my eyes out for subjecting her to that, but instead she crawled into my lap again and fell asleep. I worried she'd starve while we were traveling, having grown accustomed (after two days!) to being fed by me. I worried she'd get attacked by a raccoon or another cat. Stevie is a lover not a fighter, you see. I finally put out a pathetic status on Facebook asking if anyone had room for her in their home, because otherwise she was going to the pound. My awesome librarian friend Steve wrote back two minutes later saying he might have someone. His friend wrote me almost immediately with her phone number and fifteen minutes later she was at our house, ready to foster Stevie. Apparently it can take months to get a cat into OHS so I'm hoping that maybe we can adopt her once we return from traveling. Greg doesn't want a pet, mostly because they make spontaneous travel impossible, but he said he'd give in if it was important to me.

He's a seriously good man, that one. And I hope he meant it because I think I might want to bring Stevie home. But I've never owned a cat before. They poop in your shoes and scratch up your furniture and try to suffocate you in your sleep, right? Someone scare me petless, please. Really.

This whole situation added to a few weeks of feeling like I'm failing at everything I attempt. Bringing a new meaning to Bad Idea Jeans, I tried to dye my jeans darker using this method and ended up with purple pants. Don't believe everything you read on the Internet, especially when it's people telling you to use weedblock fabric in your landscaping. Seriously guys, don't use that stuff. Bad idea jeans, indeed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A late summer garden is not a pretty thing

I saw this tutorial in Better Homes and Gardens on how to create a picture frame planter full of sedums. It's amazing. I want one. I want an entire fence made of them. I want an entire HOUSE made of them and then I'll marry them and have a million of their babies.

It made me miss my junky little bathroom drawer on stilts that I planted with sedums last summer, only to have it crushed when the gate fell down. All of a sudden it became imperative that I recreate it.

 I decided to check out Salvage Works in Kenton. They had lots of drawers that would have worked well but I got distracted by this rusted out wheelbarrow.

Conveniently, it has a hole blasted through the bottom, meaning I could turn it into a planter with good drainage.

I decided to sleep on it because I'm responsible. Also: I didn't have the keys to Greg's truck and it wouldn't fit in my Honda. I went back the next day and the owner had conveniently written the price on the handle in Sharpie. Except by "conveniently" I mean "stupidly." Anyone know how to get that off?

I ran to Lowe's in search of sedums even though they never have good succulents. I should have gone to Portland Nursery or Cistus. Actually, I should have cleaned the bathroom or otherwise prepared for my sister's impending visit instead of messing around in the yard. Lowe's only had some unremarkable hen-and-chicks so I grabbed more grosso lavendar. I figure this probably won't last the winter above ground so I'll have to replant next spring.

I've been blog-stalking danger garden recently and coveting all the pokey plants she has in her yard. This whole wheelbarrow setup is looking a little too precious and I'm thinking one of these babies would be more fun. Whale's tongue agave:

Photo yanked from Pam Penick at Digging
That's a little more unexpected, ya? I'm not sure how deeply it needs to be planted so I might have to go with something smaller. The wheelbarrow is only five inches deep. While I was garden shopping I bought some orange crocosmia for Greg (if baby wants orange plants, baby gets orange plants) and realized that this area of the yard is an even bigger mess than I thought.

Because I never really planned this area, so many things need to be removed or moved. There's a mountain of wild morning glory quietly weaving around every plant in the area. I pull that weed every time I find it and it always comes back. My neighbor, the one who thinks I hate her Doug Fir, has it growing with abandon in her yard, meaning I will never be able to fully eradicate it. Ultimately I want to move the blueberry bushes from this area to the front yard, but that requires removed the rhododendrons, amending the soil, and doing a whole bunch of stuff for which I'm not ready. So they sit in the ground, planted far too closely to their replacement shrubs. Beautyberry sits right next to a flowering currant, which sits right next to an elderberry. They all suffer for it. I've also got a few plants on death row. Sadly, they are natives.

This mock orange has been in the ground for two summers and has yet to flower. I have no place in my yard for shrubs that don't flower when their foliage is nothing to get excited about. I'm thinking about replacing it with a Mexican Orange, which is evergreen. This area desperately needs evergreen elements. I also want some goddamn flowers. Is that too much to ask?

Also not flowering? The nootka roses. They've thicketed like crazy, popping up in places I never wanted and they have yet to produce a single flower. If I'm going to put up with thorns there had better be some flowers. I'm not running a charity over here. Also? They've gotten so tall that I can't see the ninebark behind them. I'm thinking about removing them and planting something evergreen. Something chartreuse, maybe.

Also on death row? Whatever critter broke my birdbath. AGAIN.