Monthly Archives: April 2011

Just another Loki post

While we theorize that Loki is a corgi/border collie mix, we won’t be 100% sure unless we give in to our curiosity and send off his DNA to get tested, which may never happen. One thing is for sure though, he has different length fur in odd places. Most noticeable is his tail, which has some super-long strands interspersed with short strands all along its length.

And this just in from Obvious News headquarters: it’s really hard to get a good picture of a dog’s tail, those thing never hold still!

Another place with longer fur–behind his ears–is pretty characteristic for that border collie look. I noticed the other day that the fur there was looking a bit matted… oops… We don’t really brush him ever, because it hasn’t really been an issue in the past. Anyway, I attacked the poor guy with a comb (luckily he’s used to people playing with his ears) and cut off one hopeless tangle; the rest was actually salvageable.

Much better. He’s still not really a match for the full-blood border collies or australian shepherds when it comes to ear tufts though. I think he lacks the poofy undercoat, which is why we can get away with barely ever brushing him. He looks pretty silly with those super-short legs though. No border collie can compete with him there. 🙂

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Herbs Herbs Herbs!

Well, I made it to the hardware store and schlepped around the gardening department for a while, trying to not look too confused and befuddled. They were running a two-for-one deal on most of the herbs, yay! But it took me a while to figure out that thyme, our number one most used fresh herb, was grouped with the “ground cover” plants rather than the herbs, boo. And then I had to puzzle through the difference between “woolly thyme” and “creeping thyme”. (I’m pretty sure they both creep, but the woolly thyme unsurprisingly looked fuzzier, so I went with the “creeping thyme”.)

Also there were a bunch of different types of basil. Since we don’t use it much currently, I pretty much picked at random and ended up with sweet basil. I also picked up sage, dill, and “garlic chives”, which just sounds yummy.

Anyway, they weren’t terribly expensive, so I won’t feel too bad if they die off really quickly. If nothing else I hope that they’ll be good practice for me. They’re in pots for now, but when things get hotter I may need to look to put them in the ground or at least move the pots to a shadier spot, since I think the roots can fry if they get too hot… or something…

You may have noticed in the background of the picture above there’s a big wooden container with some sort of plant growing in it. (It kinda looks like a bush in the picture.) I’ve been ignoring it right from day one because it didn’t immediately sprout pretty flowers, and I’ve been pretty frustrated at my inability to identify most of the plants in our yard. Well, while I was potting my new purchases something caught my attention… Perhaps it was because we had been drinking mojitos the night before at happy hour…

That’s right, it’s a giant fricking bucket of mint. Really I’m amazed that it hasn’t somehow put roots down through the bottom of the bucket and started taking over the yard. Dave claims to have gotten rid of a mint jungle in his back yard back in the day by attacking it with a lawn mower… He couldn’t smell anything but mint for days afterwards. 🙂 Anyway, I trimmed out all of the dead stalks and we mulched around it and otherwise we’re just going to let it be. That’s a LOT of mojitos.

Brown Walls

I’ve been posting a lot of updates on the outside of our house, and it’s because, well, the inside is still a huge mess. We’ve been managing to clean stuff up veerrryyy slowly, but every single room has stuff either in boxes, or just sitting out because we haven’t quite figured out where to put it yet.

In the master bedroom at least, we’ve managed to finish painting the walls.

The mattress is still on the floor though because we haven’t gotten around to building the bed frame. And the walls are all still blank, because the artwork that we had in our old place (with white walls) just does not look right on brown walls.

This really is my first experience with darker walls… pretty much ever… but I think big white frames will probably make the art look a lot better. And really our random collection could use some serious expanding.

I love the wall color though. Unfortunately the ceiling light is really yellow, and the window doesn’t get a ton of light, so it’s pretty hard to get good pictures. These two photos were really the only ones that looked halfway decent. Perhaps someday when I’m bored I’ll come in with a heavy-duty flash and try again. Maybe when the bed is finished and the artwork is actually on the walls…

Update on the Rose/Jasmine War

Last week, after checking around and determining that jasmine is fine with pretty aggressive pruning, I waged a full-out battle to get the jasmine off of the roses. The red rose was nearly half engulfed but still struggling on. Not only did I pull off all of the vines, I also generated quite a pile of deadheads and had to saw through a completely dry/dead rose stem that was over two inches thick… but I eventually was successful in freeing and pruning the poor thing. Here’s the before:

And after:

And here’s how it looks today, a week later:

A few more blossoms are making an appearance, at least…

Next up was the prickly rose. This thing takes up some serious space and is absolutely covered in thorns, so I think I’m going to need falconry gloves or something before I can do any serious pruning. The bush was looking pretty healthy though, and starting to push out some lovely yellow blooms. I did the best I could to get the jasmine off of it, but in the end I had to just clip some vines and leave them. Hopefully I can go back through today now that they’ve dried up and pull them off more easily. Before:

And after:

And here’s how it looks today:

Yes! flowers galore! Anyway, maybe I can procure some rose food today and help the other roses along. The behemoth rose that I tackled a few weeks back still hasn’t produced any flowers, but it has a lot of new growth and a fair number of buds, So hopefully I’ll discover what color it is before too much longer. The other two rose bushes (the ones not being attacked by jasmine) also got pruned finally, but they are pretty small and sickly looking right now. At least they’re blooming…

Kitchen Cabinets

The cabinet situation is rapidly becoming a thorn in my side. There is essentially no good place for larger items. For example, here is where we keep the colander:

And here is a bit of the deft wrist twisting that I have to do to get it out:

Luckily I haven’t actually had to use the casserole dish sitting on the second shelf yet. It’s not exactly life or death, but it’s a small, repeated annoyance that just bugs the hell out of me. What really pisses me off is that the vertical piece of wood down the center of the front of the cabinet is completely non-structural. I’m getting closer and closer to just taking a reciprocating saw to it. Unfortunately the cabinet doors don’t actually meet in the middle, so there would be a gap if I removed that vertical piece. On the top cabinets that’s not too bad, we could even remove the doors entirely and go with an open look for the time being. But we’re having a similar problem with one of the lower cabinets:

At the moment this is where the pots and pans live. (As it so happens, most of them were in the dishwasher or sink when I snapped this pic.) We’re planning on hanging most of the pans on a rack suspended over the peninsula counter space, but the stock pot and the roasting pan (the two biggest things in there) won’t be hanging any time soon, so a solution is still needed. I was thinking maybe I could cut the vertical piece of wood from the cabinet face and instead attach it to the back of one of the doors… but that may require more finesse to look good than I currently possess.

One cabinet I’m surprisingly happy with is this little rolling cabinet tucked in between the sink and the dishwasher:

When we first moved in I had no idea what to use it for, but as it turns out it’s great for storing cat food. When you have three cats you need a LOT of cat food…

Petunias and Fuchsias

We’ve finally made a move towards cleaning up our front yard, going beyond just mowing the lawn… We trimmed the bushes and planted petunias in the brick flower boxes. I think given their height, something like daffodils or tulips will probably look better there. But I have at least some confidence that I can plant petunias and not immediately kill them, so petunias it is.


Is it just me or is there supposed to be a third bush on the left-hand side here?  The middle one isn’t looking too great either… The drainage in that corner is pretty awful, that’s probably why. Ah well, add it to the loooong list of things to do… Here’s how it looked like before:

I just realized that you can totally see my reflection in the window in all of these pictures. 🙂

While we were buying supplies I perused the hanging plants. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a fuchsia before, but I thought it looked seriously cool so I bought one. The spot where I was looking to put a hanging plant (the front porch) doesn’t get much sun, so I’ll have to see how it holds up. For now thought it’s brightening up our porch just fine. I have an amazing tendency to kill off plants though, so I guess we’ll see how it goes…

Here’s the view standing at the front door:

Cologne, Germany

Dave occasionally gets to go to interesting places for his work, and we had already pretty much decided that for the next one that came along, I’d go too. As it so happens, the locale ended up being Cologne, or Köln as it’s known in German. As a bonus, we knew that Dave would have a lot of downtime for this trip, so I wouldn’t have to spend much of the time being touristy by myself while he worked.

I think it’s fair to say that we’re both pretty much the exact opposite of what you would call “seasoned world travelers”.  I managed one whirlwind trip through Europe with my high school choir group, other than that I’ve only been outside the US for my sister’s graduation in Montreal. Before starting this job, Dave had never been off of this continent. This was his first trip to Europe, though I feel like he had a big advantage over me, having taken German to fulfill his foreign language requirements in school.

We were pretty insanely jet-lagged when we got there of course, but we managed to stay awake until the sun went down. Here’s a nifty “clock” in the hotel lobby…

(The wall it’s on is mirrored, if you’re confused as to why I’m in the picture.)

I’ll try my best to avoid an excruciating walk-through of our vacation, but I wanted to ramble about a few of our favorite thoughts and experiences from the trip.

Cars- we laughed a bit at ourselves for taking a stronger interest in the automobiles than in the medieval architecture. Actually, we were surprised right from the get-go upon stepping out of the airport and discovering that nearly all taxis were Mercedes.

More generally though, we are getting ready to buy a second car, and we had already decided a few weeks ago that we were looking for a compact hatchback. As I understand it, that’s pretty much the transportation of choice for most of Europe, and Cologne was no exception. We had already narrowed down our decision to the Honda Fit and the Ford Fiesta, and since then we’ve noticed that Fits are everywhere in California, but Fiestas are few and far between. Well Fiestas have been on the market for a while in Europe, and we saw them everywhere! I think I only saw two Hondas (and they weren’t Fits) and a few more Toyotas the entire time we were there.

We had some fun puzzling out all of the unfamiliar car maker logos- we got pretty good at recognizing Renault, Fiat, Corsa, Citroën, and Opel, all of which I believe had very nice-looking compact hatchbacks.

Food- while I’m definitely not a food connoisseure, my relationship with food has changed dramatically over the years, and I’ve found one of the best ways to set myself up for a really great day is to go all out for breakfast. So when we saw that our hotel had an extensive breakfast buffet, we just had to try it. There were eggs and bacon and a huge variety of sausage, as expected. I was pleasantly surprised to see kefir and full-fat yogurt, along with a various pickled things. (Sorry, not going to try the pickled herring, especially not at breakfast…) There was also a large selection of cold cuts and soft cheeses, and several different liver pâté things. One of the pâté things had capers mixed in… so good! Anyway, round one at the buffet was devoted to my traditional breakfast foods, for round two I tried out the different cold cuts and cheeses and such.

Needless to say, we weren’t even remotely hungry when lunch rolled around, so we skipped it.

We went pretty meat-heavy on the meals in general, so I slowly became a little more familiar with the German words for pork, chicken, beef, etc. Lamm was easy to learn… and delicious of course. 🙂

I’m not a beer drinker, but Dave stepped up and did the drinking for me; he’s a helper like that. We noticed a lot of restaurants seemed to focus on Tiki drinks for their cocktails, I have no idea if that just happened to be the restaurants we visited, or if it’s a recent fad or if it’s always been fairly popular there.

Sightseeing- We went to “the Dom” of course. It was nice,  but one of the only things I remember pretty well from my high school trip was lots and lots of old cathedrals, so this one didn’t really stick out.

We really enjoyed just walking around and soaking in the city, especially along the Rhine.

One of my favorite sights was this bridge over the river, where there were thousands of padlocks with people’s names and dates (and frequently hearts and phrases like “Forever Love”) written or engraved on them. It looks like a fairly recent tradition, considering the vast majority of the dates were from the last 3 or so years. Still, it looked seriously cool. About five seconds of googling turned up this article on the tradition. The Wikipedia picture for the Hohenzollern Bridge doesn’t really reflect just how full it is these days, maybe I should submit my picture?

We also had to hit up the Schokoladenmuseum… Museum of Chocolate! It was a little drier than I was expecting, considering the subject matter, but Dave says it’s pretty similar to the Hersey Park tour, minus the mechanized ride. I guess I was expecting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or something. Anyway, all of the biology, history and cultural stuff was still very interesting. My favorite was the big room with actual functioning chocolate-making machines. Go assembly line, go!

Afterward we visited their cafe and got some drinking chocolate. I got one with Baileys added, Dave got the normal one, but both tasted pretty much like rich hot chocolate. Bummer, I was hoping for something less sweet.

I still enjoyed it of course, (Dave didn’t actually drink both of them…) but I did end up going back the next day while Dave was busy and got the spicy one. It was AMAZING! Here’s the description:

Yes, that’s chili powder, tabasco, tequila, and rum. There really wasn’t much alcohol in it, but the sweet chocolate plus the spicy kick was just excellent.

Anyway, we’re back and mostly recovered from the plane ride. All in all, a very nice trip, but I’m glad to be back in sunny California.

The Cat Situation

We have three kitties. They’re indoor-only. This creates a bit of a challenge in a house the size of ours… especially considering that we have a dog who thinks everyone wants to be his friend and play with him.

An early decision before we even closed on our house was to make one room dog-free and one room completely pet free. We’ve had occasions when we’ve had friends who were mildly allergic to pets find themselves very unhappy when spending the night at our place. It’s also nice to have a room to go to for various projects and not have to worry about the cats getting into everything… especially straight pins, which they have a strange fascination for. I guess it’s because they’re small and shiny. Yarn is a problem too, cats and balls of yarn are cliche for a reason.

So our “guest room” (3rd bedroom) door will stay closed… just as soon as it isn’t filled to the brim with boxes. The dog-free room is the “office” (2nd bedroom). That’s where we feed the cats and where we have the litter boxes set up. To keep the dog out we employ this baby gate:

It has hinges and a (somewhat aggravating) latch, so we humans don’t have to be experienced hurdlers in order to enter and exit. To make it easier for the cats, we cut a hole in the hallway linen closet:

Can you tell Pollux is still pissed at me for grabbing him by the ruff and stuffing him in a cat carrier during the move? Good thing he’s all hiss and no bite… Anyway, the hole is on the second shelf from the bottom, so Loki can’t really get to it. It leads straight into the closet in the office…

… where we keep their food dishes. We’ve removed the closet doors since we want this space to be open to the rest of the room anyway. We also have their litter boxes in the room:

We keep them pointed at the corner so that the gleeful kicking of kitty litter is limited in distance. This is a temporary solution for now. We’re planning to build a custom box with a switchback (to prevent projectile litter) and a hinged lid just as soon as we’re done building our bed frame…

We also have this cute little cat tree that we nabbed on clearance a few months ago.

(Unlike Pollux, Castor likes having his picture taken. Sorry for the weird lighting little dude!) We’re undecided as to whether we want to leave it in the office or bring it out into the living room. on the one hand, we want to provide the cats a comfy space without having to deal with the dog. On the other hand, when we’re out in the living room, the cats generally are going to be out there too. We’re leaning towards eventually building some shelving along the living room/dining room wall and making it pretty cat-friendly, so probably the cat tree will stay in the office. I guess we’ll see what happens when we actually set up the office furniture…

I’m just including this picture of Callie since this is a post about the cats and I didn’t want to leave her out. 🙂

The Vines

We have these cool vines growing along our north fence. At the moment they are blooming little white flowers like crazy, and the effect is stunning. Here’s the view from the front-most part of the fence:

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And here are some more farther back:

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Did I mention they smell lovely? Here’s a closeup of the flowers:

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After a little web surfing, (made easier when I finally noticed that the flowers have five petals) I determined that they are jasmines. I think we have four separate plants, though it’s a bit hard to tell at the moment. It’d be cool to coax them along the fence a bit more, though the entire front section of the fence is a bit saggy and probably needs to be replaced sometime soon.

We do need to get them under control though, so they stop strangling our roses. And our neighbor mentioned that they had gone over the fence and were starting to take over his yard… whoops…

Faux Brick

We have a double-sided fireplace in the middle of our living/dining/kitchen space. Here’s the view from the dining area. The living room is beyond it to the left, the kitchen is off to the right. (That’s the edge of the pantry on the right of the picture.)

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Here’s how it looks from the living room, I took this picture standing near the front door. (Sorry about the mess, we’re being really slow about finding places for all of our stuff. And yes, that is yarn stretched across the floor to the right: the kitties got into my crafting supplies.)

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I actually love the placement, it’s going to be especially awesome if we can get it working in the winter. (It has a gas line going in, but other than that we have no idea about it’s functionality.) It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the front door, or the back door for that matter. When we toured the house, my first thought was, “cool… not my style or color preference, but a neat focal point.” But then I took a closer look:

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Yeah… it’s not actually brick. Or rather, if you look up the inside of the fireplace, there’s real brick in there. But the outside is just a facade. As someone who grew up in a red brick house with a red brick fireplace, I was seriously offended.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look overtly bad, like the beige walls and trim, nor does it lack necessary function, like the kitchen cabinets. So for now redoing the fireplace facade is pretty low on our to-do list. My eye is no longer twitching every time I walk by it, so I suppose I’m even getting used to it. I do enjoy daydreaming about how we’re going to fix it up though… slate tiles maybe?