Friday, September 30, 2011

Walk in the Park

A friend and I took our dogs for a walk in a local park, and the leaves are so pretty when they're changing, I brought the camera along.   

This is the oldest house in the city.  At some point - 30+ years ago - it was lifted up and hauled across the river.  Now it's in the middle of this park.

I love this bench.  O'Canada

I wanted a pictures of Tallulah with the flowers.  She wanted to go play.

No real explanation of this one.  I just thought it was pretty.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hey, Strangers

So, I've been away from the blogosphere.  Actually, I've pretty much been staying away from the whole inter-web thing.  It's not that I've been avoiding it, just that there's been a lot going on.

Work on the house has been going like gang busters, which is good and bad.  It's good because we're making - very slow - progress.  It's bad because it's unsexy work... the kind of work that costs a lot, that shouldn't have to be done in the first place, and that nobody notices if it's done properly.  It makes me cranky that I have to do it at all.  And it makes me crankier that preparation for this work uncovered a bunch more problems.

I had the basement spray foamed in an effort to make this place a little warmer.  As a new house, it should be fairly air tight, but there are definite cold zones and breezes in the winter.  And I suspect that I found the reason for some of the cold zones.  When I pulled down the fiberglass insulation to get ready for the spray foam guy, I discovered things like this:

Apparently, the guy that built this house didn't want to let a pesky water pipe get in the way 
of his chosen route for the heating vents.   

Also note - everybody knows that duct tape isn't supposed to be used on ducts.
Except, apparently, the guy who built my house.
It was falling off like that when I found it.

I discovered this on a Sunday afternoon, the day before the spray foam guy was booked to come.  So, I had the honors of scrambling to learn to reroute air vents in 4 hours or less.  Luckily, my dad came to help and we figured it out in time.

The spray foam was done, and my basement walls now look like yummy purple marshmallows.  It's still warm outside, so I thought it was too early to know if it had worked.

Except, the house got kind of cold for a few days after the work was done.  Not horribly cold, but a few degrees colder than I like.  I kept jacking up the temp on the thermostat without paying much attention, but couldn't seem to warm up.  I was starting to wonder if I was sick, and then noticed that the furnace wasn't turning on, regardless of what temperature I set it for.  This morning, after spending an hour reading the furnace manual, learning all about pilot-light free furnaces but getting no where, I was about to call in reinforcements.  Then, I had an aha moment, remembered that there is a power switch a few feet from the furnace and that it was currently switched to the off position.  I flipped it to on, the furnace fired up and the house is finally warming up again.

It gets down to 5-10C around here at night, so if the house has managed to maintain a 19C temperature for three days, I think it's safe to declare this little project a success.

The "Old Dog Project" (aka - the new stairs off the back deck) is still in the works, but the guy I hired to make the stairs doesn't seem to have much sense of time.  I kept hearing great things about this company that makes stairs.  It's actually cheaper for me to have him make and deliver the stairs than it would be for me to buy the wood and make them myself.  But, he doesn't seem very good with his time management.  What he said would be a few hours to build the new stairs and deliver them has been a few weeks.  He got his last chance phone call this morning, and promises that they'll be here tomorrow. I'll stain them, and hope to put them up/build a bannister right after that.

Don't tell anybody, though.  I learned this week that apparently I'm supposed to have a building permit to replace stairs that are falling off the deck.  I'd have been tempted to ignore that, but I'm changing the length and height of the stairs to make them easier for Cotton.  That'd show up on my real property report, so I headed down to City Hall where I answered a bazillion questions and signed over my first born.  I'm told that a city engineer will review my plans and if they approve I'll be called to come pick up the permit.  I suspect that they're going to be amazed with my efficiency, because the stairs will be installed and finished approximately 5 seconds after I get the go ahead to proceed.

My insurance claim for the flood has still not been processed.  I'm a little annoyed by this delay.

Having expected to have received my insurance money by now, I had a shopping day planned with a good friend in Calgary yesterday.  We couldn't do the power shopping that we'd hoped without the insurance cheque, but got together anyway.  I've had a moratorium on new purses in place for some times, but since two old purses were destroyed the flood, I thought an exception could be made.

I am very particular about purses.  I don't like them too big, and I don't like if they only have one pocket that everything gets thrown into and mixed up.  My friend Kat was very patient as we went to all sorts of stores and I looked for a multi-pocketed purse that called my name.  It took a while, but I finally found one that I like.   As a girl who usually carries coloured purses and then has to coordinate her clothes to match, I thought I'd try something new and go with a neutral one.

Even better, having a slightly larger purse than what I normally carry allowed me to hustle down to the Fossil store and get me a new wallet (also a replacement for something damaged in the flood).  I like to have a wallet for each purse, and I really do love Fossil.   Also, Kat talked me into it.

I've got the rest of the week off.  I had hoped that the insurance claim would be processed by now, so that I could go out and get replacement storage shelves and cupboards and then start cleaning up the basement.  Everything is still in a big pile down there (even more so since the spray foam guy was down there) but there's no sense cleaning if I don't have anywhere to put things.  So, instead I might spend the rest of the week making crank calls to the insurance company.

Tallulah thinks that might be kind of fun.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Things I Know to be True

Beets are very, very red.
Beets are very, very red going in.
Beets are very, very red coming out.
That is all.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Spaghetti Pie

It's cold outside and windy, so I made comfort food for dinner tonight.

It's a fairly fool-proof recipe that I fall back on at least a few times a year, so I thought I'd share.

Spaghetti Pie

Go ahead and use full-fat items if you deem them appropriate, but I'm limiting my fat intake as much as possible.

4 cups cooked spaghetti
1 tsp oil
1 cup of chopped fresh mushrooms
1 cup of diced low fat, low salt ham
1 cup of raw peas or chopped green beans
1/4 cup diced onions
1 tsp minced garlic
12 oz of fat free evaporated milk
1 cup shredded low fat swiss cheese
ground black pepper, to taste

  • preheat oven to 425
  • cook the spaghetti according to instructions on box and then drain
  • add oil to skillet on medium high, then sauté mushrooms, ham, onions and garlic until cooked through
  • add evaporated milk and cheese, stirring continuously until it starts to thicken.
  • Add cooked pasta, pepper and peas/beans and mix well.  (If your skillet isn't oven proof, you'll need to shift everything over to a pie pan at this point.)
  • Bake for 15 minutes
This makes eight pie wedges.  Word to the wise, though:  let it cool a few minutes before you cut it up, or you'll have slop.

I used peas in the recipe today.  I served my "pie"  with a side of roasted beets and steamed green and yellow beans.  It was a really good and filling meal that was low in both fat and calories.  

This does not freeze well unfortunately.  So, if you don't have anybody to share it with, be prepared to eat it for a many, many meals.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I have been stressed out for quite a while that I had portraits of all the pets except Cotton.  It bothered me so much that I've been keeping my eyes peeled for an artist who could paint him.   Then I came upon an artist whose work I really liked.  The dogs in her paintings seemed to show such personality and character, I thought she could paint what I was looking for.  I sent her an email.

We talked a bit, I told her I had between $200-250 to spend.... if she had an amazing idea, I might be able to go as high as $300.  She asked for stories and pictures of him.  I explained that his dementia has left him afraid of the camera, and that most of the pictures I have already are inside (she wanted photos in natural light).  So, I took him outside and bribed him with lots of cheese.  Then I went through scads of pictures that I had from before so that she could his true character, when he was relaxed and having fun instead of being stressed out by the camera.

(This is about the time when I posted that other pic of Cotton, and the Zadge stepped in to fix it for me)

A few days later, she responded and suggested painting a picture of him based on a photo, in which he looks really stressed.  Maybe she could alter the photo to give him a more relaxed expression, but I wasn't feeling it.  I didn't get the impression that she understood Cotton's character.

I considered bowing out - I had a photo for the portrait now - but I felt guilty for having I'd taken up her time.  She made a comment about Tallulah, so I suggested that maybe she start by painting Tallulah.  I sent her some pictures, she picked one out that I love and I thought we were on track.   Then she told me that my budget of $300 would get me a 6" by 6" painting.


First, I was tempted to ask if that came with a built in magnifying glass.
Next, I wondered when we'd shot past my preferred budget of $200-250.

Once again, I consider bowing out; but at this point I'd taken up even more of her time and so was even more reluctant to disappoint.  I'd seen what she calls sketches, which are really paintings with less detail.  They're good though, in an almost art deco sort of way.  They start at $47 each, so I suggested that maybe she can paint me a sketch of each of the pets.  I listed the pictures I wanted the poses based off of, and asked her what she thought.

She responded that she thought that was a good idea, except she'd want to do different poses.  She sent me the pictures she'd base the poses off of, and I didn't like two of the three.  She was still wanting to use the picture of Stressed out Cotton, and she picked one of Tallulah that was really unattractive.  Oh, and the price was $300.

I lost sleep over it that night, but finally decided that I had to bow out.   It sucks, because I feel like I've disappointed her.  Even more, I'm disappointed myself.   Once we started talking about it, I got my heart set on having portrait paintings done of the pets.  Looking at her work, I would expect that they would have been amazing, but I'm not confident that they'd be a reflection of my dogs.  Aside from that, they are beyond my means.

You know what sucks the most?  Somebody out there is going to have a portrait painting of Tallulah.  That photo of Tallulah from that I love?  She  loves it too, and asked my permission to paint it.  The painting will be significantly larger than 6x6, and will be displayed it in an upcoming show.  Somebody at that gallery with much deeper pockets than me will get to take home a portrait of my girl.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Things I Know to be True

Tufty Toes

Fuzzy bums

Hairy Ears

Long and flowing beards

Soft and floppy bellies

All are attractive features in a cat.
They are not so attractive in men.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Working from Home

  • The commute can't be beat.  I haven't filled my car up with gas in a month.
  • After much fiddling and rearranging, I have the office set up for now.  I had to move from the old office into the spare room to get away from the sunlight, but then I had to move the desk to make room for the armoire to go back where it was before all this.  A certain cat was scratching it up while trying to launch himself to the top.  Now the desk is wedged in the corner against the bed, but that's not all bad.  As a trade off for the tight space, I almost always have a critter sleeping on the bed, within arms reach as I work.
  • The one thing I really missed from the office (besides the people) is the two monitors that I have at my desk there.  Insurance said that I could replace the monitor that was damaged in the flood, and get a second monitor instead of another computer. What I really didn't expect is for technology to have come so far, and prices to go down so low.  The items that were damaged are no longer available, and so I got bigger and better for less than half the original price.  (And Insurance pays anyway.)  Not bad!  
  • One example of an upgrade was that my crappy dot-matrix printer has been replaced with an all in one wireless  Kodak inkjet printer. My dad got one a few months ago and has never managed to get it set up on his network.  I opened mine up, read the directions, and had it set up in 5 minutes thankyouverymuch!  Next stop is to go to my dad's place to help him read the instructions.
  • Another example would be my monitors, for which I had to search pretty hard to find "only" 20" screens.  The only downside of the two bigger monitors is that they take up so much room on my desk, the Mac (my personal computer) had to move to the kitchen.  I'm currently sitting on the far side of the island, typing this with a wireless keyboard that's so far from the computer, the words are a blur.  Please excuse any typos.
  • As a means of dealing with my own wandering mind and tendency to multitask, I am keeping a running list of things I'll do on my breaks.  Anytime I'm tempted to pop up and do something that's not work, I write it down.  I've never looked so forward to breaks in my life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Good Story

I wasn't going to say anything about today's anniversary, because I figured that everybody else would be.  I took a few moments to remember, watched a few of the documentaries on A&E... until I had to stop because I was getting too emotional.  I've never been so profoundly affected by an event, as I was by the attacks on Sept 11, 2001.

But, a friend of mine said something today that I think is very right.  He said that the terrorists tried to take away our ability to smile and laugh, and so we should do both to thwart them.  And so, when I came upon this short documentary, I decided to repost it here.  It's a good story, of ordinary people stepping up and helping out.  I'd never heard it before, and I don't think many have.  It's a little longer than 10 minutes, but I think it's worth watching.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Old Dog Project - Phase One.

The stairs off the back deck at my place are rotting and have been on the brink of falling off for a few years.  I have to get them replaced before I run out of luck and they fall off.  I figured that since I was putting in new stairs, I might as well make them more accessible for a certain aging and almost blind dog.

I'm having them made with as short a rise as code will allow, and doubling the run, so they'll be much longer, but at a much lower slope.  They'll be old dog friendly.

The company that makes them does only that - makes and delivers the stairs- so today my dad and I took the first step; we put in concrete blocks to make a landing at the bottom of the stairs.   First we had to remove the 5 inches of pea gravel that was there, and then dig out the clay and replace it with compacting gravel, tamp and level that out, and then an inch of sand.  Finally, four hours later, we had level patio blocks, upon which to set the bottom of the new stairs.

I think today was the hottest day of the year, so I was exhausted when we finished.  I decided to leave the big pile of pea gravel (that needs to be spread out throughout the rest of the dog pen) and the tools, and go inside.  The dogs, who hadn't been allowed outside all afternoon, quickly went outside to use the facilities and were pretty surprised when they got to the bottom of the stairs.

Both are absolutely convinced that they can't pass over the new concrete blocks.

If anybody would like to volunteer to come lift them over the evil obstruction until the new stairs are in place, please speak up soon.  Until then, my dogs will be crossing their legs.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Best. Fundraiser. Ever

The lady who grooms my dogs also raises chicken on the side.  This has become a passion of sorts, and she's a big supporter of humanely raised chickens - ie - they don't live in little tiny cages all their lives.    She's become active with local groups in the area and is helping to organize a big poultry show.

They need sponsors for the show and were thinking of ways to raise money, and I think they came up with a great idea.

It's called "Pass the Rooster".

One of her roosters is particularly chatty  loud obnoxious.   They'll be working with the local radio station, and dropping off the rooster at places of businesses first thing in the morning.  The radio station will give them a call (on the air) and they'll be informed that the rooster has to stay until they raise $300 to have him removed.  Until they do, it'll be nothing but cock-a-doodle doo.  People can then call or go in to the businesses to make donations to help remove the rooster, or they can call into the radio station, who will be checking in with the business regularly during his stay.

They plan to do this every day for a week.  Obviously, they'll have the approval of the big-wigs at the business, to make sure that nobody gets into trouble, but I think it's supposed to be a surprise for the rest of their staff.  In the meantime, the poultry club makes some money, the businesses get free advertising on the radio, and the radio station gets some laughs.  I think it's genius.

Moosepants - do you know of a medical clinic that might enjoy a rooster for a few hours in their reception area?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Finicky Feline

Winter's kidneys are borderline.  They don't cause him problems, but tests have always come back so close to the problematic line that vets are surprised that he's as healthy as he is.  So, last week when the vet asked me what he eats, I hung my head in shame.  He eats a popular brand of kibble that isn't great for him, especially with his kidneys.

I excused the poor nutrition by explaining that He Won't Eat Anything Else.   He won't.  He has his fairly healthy canned food, of which he'll eat *one* flavour.  But, he's eaten the same kibble all his life, regardless of how many other brands I've brought home and begged him to eat.  He'll eat what he likes, and that's it.

So, when the vet said to me that I should try this other food because it'd be better for him, I scoffed.  No way he'll eat that, I said.    Just try it, she said... see what he thinks.  I really thought (and said) that taking home a sample was a waste of her food.  It was just going to go straight into the garbage.

Keeping in mind that Winter refused to come out of the crate for the entire vet visit, and wasted $50 of my money, you can understand that he wasn't in my good books.  I cleared his feeding station of his kibble and his canned food, and left him a few morsels of the new kibble.

The damn cat ate them all.

Then he went on a hunger strike and refused to eat anything else but the sample food..

Today, I finished off the last of the sample kibble, and he wouldn't even look at the food he used to eat. So, I begrudgingly drove across town - during rush hour - to buy him some more.  They were out of the smaller bags, so I had the choice of driving home empty handed and letting my cat starve, or dropping another $50 on a 10 pound bag of kibble that will last 6 months.

Guess who turned his nose up at the new food once I got home.

We are not amused.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Trying Something Different

You just can't win a battle against the sun.  I tried for a while, but short of tinfoiling the room, I wasn't making much progress.

My office former office is a sun trap.  It's hard to complain about a plethora of sunlight, but that's what I'm going to do.  It's hot, and the glare off of the computer screen is really bad.  It has worked fine in the past, but now that I'm in there for 8+ hours a day, that glare is headache inducing.

This morning, I started off in the office.  I ended up moving into the dining room, but as the sun moved west across the sky, light started pouring into the dining room windows too.  That's when I had an Aha! moment.  My spare bedroom - a room that I barely use - is on the north side of the house.  It never gets direct sunlight, regardless of the time of day.

And so, I present to you my new office:

Don't judge me for my phone.  Mickey never runs out of batteries.

It comes with its own problems.  That's a tight space, and there isn't room for my two monitors and docking station that I usually use for work.

Making room for the desk meant displacing the armoire and leaving the bed with no side tables...   I suspect the armoire is going to end up being moved down to the basement.  This setup also gives the cat the opportunity to launch himself onto the armoire, which would be fine if he didn't use his claws when he doesn't *quite* make the jump.   The armoire may be going to the basement for now, but it's a nice piece of furniture that I don't want to see covered in scratches.

It also leaves the other room without a purpose, although that might be more a positive than a negative.  I'm thinking a Nest Chair, a few shelves full of books across the back wall and a tiny desk to hold the Mac could make that room into a nice library.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I hope this works

I continue to rejig the front office, while trying to find the still-elusive location for my desk without sunlight and glare.  One thing that I was stumbling over was the plant in the room, which has grown so large that it had to remain in a corner so that the walls could support it.

Old picture.

This plant is one that I picked up while I was in college, and it was 6" high.  It didn't have flowers at the time, but started blooming a while later.  It hasn't stopped growing or blooming since.

It's gotten so big that even the longest stakes I could find were too short, and it was in danger of toppling over.  I've been waffling about what to do for some time, and putting off what I thought was going to be the inevitable - throwing it away.

While trying to make room in the office, I ended up propping the plant in the dining room corner, had an idea and jumped on it without much thought.  A few minutes later, I had teacup hooks screwed into the wall,  and the plant had found a new home.  I suspect it'll look better when it grows large enough to go up and across the wall.

Or not.   I keep getting flashbacks of the 70's.  It reminds me of when people had ivies hanging in macrame hangers with big wooden beads, and the branches of the plants stretched out across the room.

I also think the light fixture looks too busy in front of it.  
It'd look better with a simple hurricane lamp, but new fixtures aren't in the budget.


Either way, the cup hooks screwed into the wall make this little experiment something of a commitment.  I'll live with it for a while, and if I decide that I hate it, I guess I'll take it down... and repaint the wall.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


These are the things rumbling around in my brain

  • It blows me away that, years later, Cotton Dog's Story still averages 5 hits a day.  
  • I just hired somebody to spray foam the top part of my basement walls.  No, I didn't hire this guy.   The next guy that came around was intelligent and respectful.  And his quote was 25% less.  I like him.
  • I need to hire somebody else to build new back stairs onto my deck.  The original builder placed the stairs directly on the soil, so in addition to rotting, they have sunk significantly.  Currently, they are held in place with three screws, and I'm afraid that they're going to snap off every time I go up or down.
  • I was hoping to go back to California again this Christmas, but all these expenses are interfering.  It's times like this when I wish I was in a rental.
  • I could probably do the stairs myself.  My goal in early August was to rebuild them with a lower rise and a deeper run to accommodate a certain little white dog who is growing old and going blind.  Then the house flooded, and I ran out of steam.... and I'm not going to get it done.  
  • I know three people who know people who would like the job, but now the decision about who to hire is slowing me down.  Whichever guys I don't hire for the job, I somehow feel as though I'm insulting the people who introduced them to me.
  • Back in July some time, I decided to get serious about weight loss.  I gained a lot of weight over the last couple of years, but now that I don't feel sick anymore, I don't have any more excuse.  So far, I've lost 15.5 pounds.  
  • I met a friend for lunch today.  We sat at one of three active tables in the restaurant.  Normally, this restaurant chain has about 50 active tables, but they had no staff.  There was one cook, one waitress and a hostess, so they shut everything else down.   It seems really odd to me to live in a place where it's not unusual for businesses to close or limit their available services because of staffing shortages.  And yet, I know people in Eastern Canada or the US who are struggling to find jobs.
  • I have to rearrange my office again, because of plethora of sunlight and glare in the mornings.  The desk is going to be facing the window again, but I don't want to rejoin the neighbourhood watch.  The current curtains are too sheer to block my view, so I've jigged up my own version of redneck window covers.  Yep, the lower windows are now covered with waxed paper.  I'm such a class act.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cranky Old Man

Winter had an appointment for his annual checkup at the vet today.  I stopped vaccinating the pets a few years ago (personal choice, and with the support of their vet), so the annual checkups involve them going to the vet's office, being weighed, being checked for unusual lumps or soreness under the guise of getting pats and cuddles, and then me answering questions.  Not so stressful you'd think, eh?

Himself had other thoughts.  When I put the crate at the front door, he climbed into it on his own as he usually does (it's really Cotton's crate, so that was a little underhanded on my part).  He didn't cry or meow on the car ride.  He didn't make  peep in the waiting room.  But, when we went into the exam room and opened the crate to take him out, he drew the line.  Winter would not come out of the crate.

He hissed.  He spat.  He swatted.  When we reached in to pull him out, he bit.  When I tried to take the lid off the crate, he did all of the above.

I'm sure we could have donned ourselves in chainmail and forced him out, but neither the vet nor I wanted to do that. She reminded me that he had been in for a checkup in March when he'd had a bladder infection, and said that she'd done a fairly thorough exam then.  We decided to leave him there.

Winter got a free pass, but I didn't.  I spent $50 and 90 minutes on this little adventure.