Weekend project: secure the yard!

Relampago ocean
So I'm innocently working, and I get a message that I've been tagged on a post in facebook.  I click.  I regret.

A picture of a badly injured dog pops up. And in the comments section, a friend posts "I'm pretty sure that Graham and 'stina know this dog."   Dammit. I did.

Rewind.

About an hour ago, Graham called me asking for a neighbor's number.  Skye, the great Dane across the street, was out of her yard, and we don't have her owner's number.  (Skye's owners, btw, are also Noir's official owners.)  We do have the number of another neighbor who has their number, so he wanted to talk to her so she could talk to them.  Graham tried to catch Skye, but she was either too scared or too excited or too gun-shy to go anywhere near him.  He tried treats, he was really soft with her. He called her.  Every time he got close, she bolted. Whenever he followed, she sped up.  He realized that if he chased her, she'd just run faster.  Graham realized he wasn't going to catch her, so he needed her owners right away.

Graham vented on facebook about the whole thing.

Half an hour, 45 minutes later, the facebook notification from my friend popped up.  A great Dane had been hit by a car in River Oaks and could anyone identify the bloody dog in the picture. The signal was boosted. Two separate friends saw Graham's rant on facebook and the picture. And both friends got in touch with both of us, hence the image hitting my inbox.

It took me awhile to find information, but I finally found a number for the person who posted the picture, and I called.  Skye made it all the way to the River Oaks Shopping Center. And several people tried to catch her, but she wouldn't come.  Finally, she got hit by a car.  The lady I talked to was the manager of a pet business, and it sounded like she was instrumental in organizing immediate care.  There was a vet's office not too far away, and they picked her up immediately. At the very least, Skye has a broken leg.  I gave her my neighbor's name and address and said that we'd do what we could to get in touch with the vet's office.

I called Graham and gave him what information I had, and he said that the neighbors were just getting home, obviously in a panic.  He relayed as much information as he could (without getting angry), and they took off to the vet.  I hope she's going to be ok.

The likelihood of something like this happening to one of our dogs is slim, as they don't hang out outside unsupervised.  One of us is usually with them when they're outside, and they're not particularly interested in not being with us. Even on the rare times when the gate has been open, they haven't shown much interest in leaving.  They both have tags, and Celosa is chipped (Fusilli will be chipped soon).

Still, this doesn't mean that accidents don't happen.  My parents' first puli, Pisco, died because he was hit by a car.  He had horrible separation anxiety, and once, when my parents left for some event or another, he opened the sliding glass door, got out of the yard, and went to look for them.  He got hit on a busy street near their house. Fusilli is still new, and he might decide to get some bug up his butt about entry or exit to the rest of the world, and I really don't want to go through what Skye's parents are going through right now.  Celosa in the accident was enough of that for me.

So this weekend, we'll go through the yard like a fine toothed comb and look for any exit points. Skye got out not because the fence was insecure, but because she could crawl under the house. But she couldn't remember how to crawl back the way she'd come.  I know a few spots that need some attention. It'll piss off the cats, but they're pretty good about figuring their way around things. 

Milestones

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Fusilli just jumped on the couch!  He's 12 weeks old today.

Of course he has no idea that he did it, or how to replicate it.  He was being chased by his sister at the time and didn't stop to think about the mechanics.  But a few days from now, he'll get it better.

And then, the only refuge will be the bed.  That's usually at around three months or so, so he has a few weeks on that.

I keep meaning to note his mile stones more here. I did that with Celosa and Crianza, and those recollections are so useful with Fusilli.

At any rate, he grows, and gets along great with his big sister. They're laying on the floor next to me, side by side.  And they enjoy the hell out of each other's company.

I'm so glad that we got him for her.  She gets annoyed with him very seldom, and she's very patient. She's also having a blast playing with him. He's bigger than she was at that age, but a little quieter. They don't bark at each other like Crianza and Celosa did when Celosa was this age.

He's a voracious eater, finishes his bowl in about a half minute.  He's always irate that he goes straight outside after a meal, and can't muscle Celosa out of her bowl to grab her food. Celosa sort of rolls her eyes at this.

He's terribly cute, and we're awfully glad to have him.  And we're so grateful that Celosa is here to do the hard work with him.  If she rubs off even a little on him, he'll be an amazing pooch.

Yucutan

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I'm going to Mexico on Friday for a wedding.  My friends wanted to get married on a beach, and they found a cute All Inclusive on Isla Mujeres. There will be 45 of us there, and I'm sharing a room with two of my friends and another girl I haven't met yet. Graham isn't coming because he has schoolwork, and the end of the semester looms. I also have schoolwork, but the class I'm missing is due to work, not this mini-vacation.  I get home on Monday.

I haven't been to Mexico in probably 20 years, and I'm actually getting pretty excited about the prospect. I've never been to Isla Mujeres, but I spent tons and tons of time in the Yucutan when I was a kid.  Aeromexico used to have a deal where kids flew free with an adult, and for my parents, Mexico was the easiest vacation to take.  You could leave the house and be on the beach about four hours later.

We went to a place called Akumal most of the time, which I wrote about 9 years ago.  It's about 75 miles south of Cancun, and it was a coconut plantation before they started turning it into a resort about 40 years ago.  It's not a resort in the sense that it's at all organized.  There are a bunch of condominiums and small hotels and casitas arranged along the coastline, with a few restaurants, a small grocery store, a dive shop, and an amazing bar on the beach. We'd usually stay in one of the condos, since I think they were less concerned with the number of people than just renting out the unit.  That they had kitchens was a selling point too, because we'd cook in for breakfast and some dinners.  We'd take cassettes with us, and there are some songs of the soundtrack of my youth that are associated with Akumal.  At night, we'd play with the hermit crabs we'd find on the beach and bring "home" or we'd play gin rummy or otherwise entertain ourselves.  It was too far away from any towns for television signals, and I don't think there were phones in the condos.  We were cut off entirely, but we didn't mind in the slightest.

The beach is sugar white, and there are tons of coconut trees.  (There was a blight in the 90s that killed most of the trees, but I believe that they've recovered quite a bit since then.) About 200 yards off the beach, there is a coral reef. Which means that the water is amazingly calm, and mothers of kids under the age of ten don't worry too much about their kids playing in the ocean.  My dad always said that the water was so clear that you could not only see your toes when you were standing in it, but you could see the dirt in your toenails. And of course, the reef was gorgeous, with lots of pretty, colorful fish and lovely corals.  I believe it was a national park.   My parents would hang out at the bar and talk to the others there. My dad once spent an afternoon just chatting with Ridley Scott (having no idea who he was) about whether or not the Hunt For Red October would make for a good film. ,The kids would play on the beach or in the water.  It was an amazing way to spend time.  I really loved it quite a bit.

Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Coba were all archaeological sites that we went to as well.  I desperately wanted to be Indiana Jones, and in those days, we could climb over any structure that was standing.  We'd scramble on the pyramids and temples and dare each other to get close to the cenotes.  I actually went into college thinking of becoming an anthropology major because of those trips (and to the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City).  It was with great pride (and some fear) that I climbed el Castillo at Chichen Itza when I was ten years old.  Tulum was closest to Akumal, so we went there the most.  There was a little tourist market there, and we'd look at all the souvenirs, conning my parents into letting us bring something home with us.

There were also a few lagoons, where underwater rivers in the Yucutan would meet up with the ocean. One was right in the Akumal complex, called Yal-Kul.  We'd go there to snorkel at least once or twice a trip.  It was deeper than the reefs by the beach, and there were some amazing fish there. I once spent 15 minutes following what I thought was a dolphin, until it turned and I realized it was a 4 foot shark.  I've never swum so fast in my life after making that discovery.  I don't think I was in any danger.

I went to Mexico City and Acapulco and to some of the border towns in the Valley also when I was a kid, including my grandfather's funeral. I loved those trips as well, but I didn't know them as well as I knew Akumal in the Yucutan.  Mexico City was for years my favorite city in the world.

The last time I went to Mexico that I can think of was in 1992, when I was 18.  I was in college, and I went with some friends for Spring Break to Mazatlan. It wasn't anything like the Mexico I knew.  Everyone spoke English, the hotels were like fortresses, and everyone was American. I had fun, I suppose.  I partied at Senor Frogs.  My first one-night-stand happened on that trip, with one of the nicest guys to introduce a girl to such things. I learned a lot about myself. But it could have been anywhere, not necessarily in Mexico.  I went to Tiajuana also when I was in college, but again, it wasn't the Mexico I grew up going to.

Afterwards, Mexico sort of fell off of my radar. There were a few times that I thought about going, but I never wanted to do something like that trip to Mazatlan again.  There've been a few family trips down to the Valley in the last 20 years, but it's gotten so dangerous on the border towns that even locals don't cross much anymore.   In 2006, my dad and sisters went to Mexico City for a quick weekend trip, but I was dealing with a broken heart and didn't want to go anywhere then.   My mother-in-law was living in Guanajuato when Graham and I first started dating, but she moved back to the US a year later, after her husband passed away.   I keep thinking about going on a trip to either Copper Canyon or Michoacan for the butterfly migration with my mom, but those are hard trips to organize.  I think my sister Olivia would probably like those trips as well, but I don't know.

This trip is purely for fun, not culture or experience.  I suspect that I won't have to speak much Spanish, though I am looking forward to it if I do.  I don't think we'll be leaving the resort much, since everything is included in the fare.  My purpose in being there is to celebrate my friends', and we'll have a good time.

But I'm getting excited about going back to Mexico after all these years.   I suspect that the ocean and the beach will be familiar, and tons of memories will come flooding back as soon as I take a look at the water. 

A technological victory!

fix it
About three or four weeks ago, I noticed that my computer was having difficulty closing properly, and over the next few weeks, it got worse and worse.  Since I've been back in school, I actually carry my laptop not just between the dining room (where my desk is) to the TV room (where the couch is), but to school and work.  So this "not being able to close" thing was becoming a problem.

As far as I could tell, there was something wrong with just the case, not the screen itself.

So I started hunting online, and I figured out what parts I needed on ebay. They were not ridiculously expensive, and definitely were better than getting a new laptop.

They got here last week, and I was still not sure what I was going to do.  Take them to microcenter and have the tech people there repair my laptop?  Call one of my more tech enabled friends to help me?

Nope! I found a step by step instructional video, and armed with my ipad and a screwdriver, I took apart my computer and put it back together again. Working laptop for about $50!

Not really a big deal for a lot of people, I know, but I was pretty terrified throughout the process.  I screwed up one connection on my first try, but I was able to hunt it down and fix it, and now I know what to do if that ever happens again.


In related news, I took a quilting class a little over a week ago, and it turns out a) I don't suck and b) I actually liked it.  I'm starting a project next week!  The not sucking part was a surprise, but so was the liking it.  I was a little worried that the many, many (many!) steps involved would be too labor intensive for me.  But I think it's something that I could easily get into.


In semi-related news, I have four more classes before school is over, and so far, it looks like I'm doing ok!  I don't know why I was so convinced that I wasn't going to finish.  I do, actually. It's because I haven't finished so many times before that I sort of have it in the back of my mind that I won't fisnish now. 

Fusilli at the ranch!

from the ranch
Fusilli went to the ranch this weekend.  He had a BLAST and thought that the ranch was great fun.  He went flying through the screen porch because he saw me and Graham on the patio and thought it was unfair that we were there and he wasn't.  He also discovered that it's lots of fun to play with his sister in a bigger house.  He didn't understand why his cousin Zapata didn't come out to play more often, and Zapata didn't care to explain that he'd be in the closet until the puppy left. That was ok, because there is so much fun to had at the ranch that puli pouts are easy to ignore.

But most importantly, Fusilli discovered a MUD PUDDLE.  Oh what fun! After its discovery, he went to it every time he went outside. And he was terribly put out that people kept removing him from the mud puddle.  But no worries, he knew where it was!  Even the Christmas tree cutting party sign on top of it didn't deter him!  The mud puddle was amazingly fun!


MUD!WallowingWhut???






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It was also the first of two Antique Weekends, and Graham's mom is visiting. So we took off on Saturday with my parents to see what there was to see.  We weren't looking for anything in particular, but we did find a new coffee table for the TV room. The dealer builds furniture out of old barn wood, and the table was just stunning.  For some reason, he was having trouble selling it, and he'd slashed the price to get rid of it. The wood was outstanding, and we were happy to take it off his hands.  Our coffee table in the TV room is a little battered, and it'd actually work better as a side table for a room at the ranch.  Since my mom had been hunting for the side table, this worked out perfectly.  I think that Graham's mom liked the antique festival, though it was as chaotic and overwhelming as ever.

Aside from some of the bigger furniture that the dealer had, there weren't a ton of items that I coveted this year at the festival.  We saw the dealer who sold us my engagement ring, and she had some lovely items that I could easily add to my jewelry box. And there were a few items that I could have seen re-purposing and selling later on, but by and large, I didn't leave the festival unsatisfied. I suspect that would have been different if the high end tents at Marburger farms had been open, but they don't get going until Tuesday.  Fusilli hung out in a crate while we were gone, and after some initial "oh woe is me"s, he seemed well rested when we got back.

Post cow shit bath Fusilli's cousin Zapata turned out not to be as enamored with Fusilli as the other way around, so he stayed in the closet (by his choice) except when the coast was clear. And even then, there was always a danger of being attacked by the ferocious puppy, so he was wary. Zapata did the same thing the day after our wedding when he got overwhelmed by the number of people in the house. We couldn't find him at all, and it turned out that the closet seemed like a safe spot.  That Fusilli can't yet climb stairs makes the closet in my parents' room even more appealing as a hide out.

Zapata and Celosa did go running with mama on Sunday morning, and that was an adventure too!  Celosa discovered a HUGE pile of stinky fresh cowshit and she rolled and rolled and rolled until she was covered!  Almost as much fun as a 9 1/2 week old puppy in a mud puddle. Zapata helped with the cow shit, and she wouldn't get out until mama stopped her run, went to the dogs and physically got them out of the pile.   Celosa thought it was so much fun that she didn't even mind the post cow shit bath.
Other than the antique festival, there wasn't really much done. We spent a lot of time outside, because the weather was so perfect.  Celosa and Zapata joined me on the hammock for awhile, but Fusilli thought that hammocks are boring. You just sit there! You don't DO anything.  So he preferred to frolic in the grass and chase his daddy and find the mud puddle and otherwise cavort and have fun.

I think Graham's mom enjoyed not having a massive wedding to prepare for, so she could relax while we were at the ranch a bit more this time.  It's still pretty cold in Wisconsin, where she lives, so she enjoyed being able to sit in the breeze outside without needing more than light clothes.   It was beautiful, with green grass and wildflowers everywhere, and the temperatures didn't get too high. I think I might have gotten a little sun.

But of course, the focus was on the puppies.  Celosa is a very good big sister, though she does get annoyed every now and then.  Instead of hiding in the closet, she chooses to tell her baby brother NO! and then hop somewhere that he can't reach yet.  He's pretty good about getting the picture. And so far he hasn't destroyed anything or focused on anything too inappropriate.  And housebreaking seems to be going well.  He's getting into the habit of peeing every time he goes outside, and I really think that he tries to tell us when he has to poop, even if we're not good about picking up his signals. The thing we need to work on the most is leash training. He HATES the leash.

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The story of a Silly Pasta

leash attack
So shortly after Crianza died, I e-mailed her breeder to let her know what had happened. Irma had already been in the loop about Crianza's illness, but since we didn't have a diagnosis until the day she died, she didn't know what had been wrong with her.  I thought that she needed to know.  In the e-mail, I said that Celosa really does best when there's another dog around and to please keep us in mind when she had another litter. Since the "Q" litter was born in November 2010, we knew that it'd be quite some time before there'd be another litter, but we figured we'd have a puppy within the year.

A few months later, we were on our way to Irma's house for one of her periodic "puli parties," when we got into the accident.

We saw Irma later on in July at the big dog show, but she was busy showing Eve (Celosa's litter mate, also known as "Piroskai Original Sin").  We did get to meet Snitch (who was in the Q litter and has the best pedigree name "Piroskai Quidditch"), who was just an adorable 9 month old puppy at the time.  No word of a litter.

And so we waited.  We exchanged birthday greetings with Eve in December 2011, and I checked in on the possibility of a litter in January.  Nothing on the immediate horizon, but there were plans to breed the next time everyone went into season. Then we went about planning out the wedding.  Given that we had all the wedding plus kitchen renovation things to do, we thought that a puppy later in the year would be best at any rate.

In July 2012, we were asked to do the Debra Duncan Show as part of the promotion for the dog show in general.   And when I say we, I think everyone understands that I mean Celosa.  I was just there to hold the leash.  Celosa did GREAT on TV.

"We" also volunteered for the "Meet the Breed" part of the dog show, where each breed has an hour to interact with the general public. Pulik are notoriously not particularly interested in "the public," and of course, the public is very interested in pulik. But, Celosa is an unusually friendly puli and rather likes meeting strangers.  She was welcomed with open arms, and she was GREAT with the questions and pulling and pictures and everything.  While we were there, we found out that Eve had a false pregnancy about a month earlier.

In October, we went to a puli party and had a grand time!  (Celosa is in the middle of the photo below.) I talked at length to Kudos (Kudos to Chance) and Lexi (Kloak N Dagger) and Kai (Kowabunga), who are all Crianza's littermates.  Kai and Lexi look so much like Crianza that it almost hurts to be around them. Celosa thought we should go to more parties with pulik, and she even tried out some of the agility equipment in Irma's yard. We also found out that Irma was planning a breeding soon. Another couple had recently lost their beloved puli, and they were hoping for a puppy as well.  They were very much wanting a boy, while we would prefer a girl, given how great Celosa and Crianza had been.
cropped group

Shortly afterwards, I joined the "Happy Global Puli Tales" group on Facebook, which is very international in its reach.  I discovered there that while homeless pulik are pretty rare in the US (though there is a puli rescue here), they aren't uncommon at all in Eastern Europe, especially Hungary. I LOVE the group. It's one of the first dog groups that I've ever been around where everyone understands each other so well.  Our issues are pretty unique.  Over time, I'd fall in love with pulik that were looking for homes, but usually in places it was cost prohibitive for me to get them.

Finally, in late December, four years to the day that I found out about Celosa, birthday!I exchanged birthday greetings with Eve. In her return greeting, I found out the amazing news that puppies were expected in about three and a half weeks!  Of course, there were no guarantees, and who knows what the litters would be like?  But chances were very good we'd be getting a puppy soon.  The waiting sucked. Celosa was an oops puppy (she was planned, but everyone thought that the pregnancy didn't take), so there was no waiting for her to be born and THEN to get old enough to come home.  Here, we had to wait FOREVER for the puppies to be born.  Ok, it was a little under a month.  Fusilli was born on January 22 to Mojo (Mojoman Put a Spell on U) and Lola (Lollapalooza) with three brothers.

All boys? At first, we weren't quite sure. We thought we wanted a girl.  Of course, my beloved Relampago was my soul mate, and he was wonderful to me. But both he and Zapata had aggression issues that we weren't quite sure about. And both Crianza and Celosa was just amazing.  We realized, though, that socializatoin had a lot to do with it, and our puppy would be amazingly social no matter what the sex was.  We decided to take one of the boys.

In the meantime, I and most  of the Happy Global Puli Tales group fell in love with Adam, a puli that had been either hit by a car or impaled and found on January 5.  He was found on the side of the road somewhere in Hungary, and he was rescued by an amazing vet student who works for FAPF (Foundation of Animal Protection in Füzesabony).  The photos of him were gruesome, but he had an amazing spirit, and Caroline did an amazing job bringing him not just back to health, but to LIFE.  People in the States and Australia were trying to figure out how to get him to their respective countries. We all watched as he recovered from a pretty bad gash in his front shoulder, a2 weeksnd he became more and more active in the videos that Caroline would post.  Two weeks ago, he went to his forever home in Finland, and fortunately for his international fan base, his new owner posts videos of him frolicking in the snow.

Additionally, some puppy mill in Missouri got out of the puli business and sold her entire stock at auction on February 16. (Seriously, Missouri can go fuck itself when it comes to puppy mills.)  There were a lot of puppies in the auction, and there was considerable debate on the boards about whether it was a good idea to rescue the puppies (and therefore give money to the mill) or not.  Ultimately, two rescue groups in the midwest got them, and they're still being homed.

Meanwhile, we would get weekly reports on Fusilli and his brothers.  We looked at the pictures and wondered which one would be ours?  Irma always ties the Hungarian flag colors (red, white, and green) first, and then there was a blue. All four were roughly the same size, and from the pictures we couldn't tell much.  Celosa was the smallest of her litter, and she had a light blue  Crianza's was white.  What were we looking for?

baby blueIrma invited us to visit at just under four weeks old (February 16).   We knew that the other couple was also coming, and because they were most clear about the boy thing, they were getting the first pick. They were also going to be having a (human) baby soon, so we suspected that their criteria was a little different from ours.  Still, we knew better than to fall head over heels with one that day.  

I'd never seen a puli that young before.  They'd just that week started moving around and making their opinions about life known.  Graham and I gravitated towards the blue and the green. Green had looked at us first when we walked in, and blue was just a sweetheart.  Irma told us that Green was the most active, and he did seem to squirm a lot. Blue climbed up on my neck. Green fell asleep on Graham's chest.  White was the most laid back of all of them.  And Red was something of a combination of Blue and Green, sweet but also active. Red also had a little tiny white spot on his chest, which reminded me of Chispa.   I sort of avoided falling in love with Red because he sort of looked like the type that someone else would pick.  He was the first born, and he was pretty distinctive.

Lexi, the puppies' grandmother, was there with Lola, their mama.  She looks so much like Crianza it's almost frightening. I realize that most people can't tell pulik apart, much less see how a puli would look or not look like another puli, but the K litter was quite remarkable.  Lexi could sense that Graham was drawn to her, so she hopped on his lap, breaking his heart a little.

Irma told us to think about the two we liked the best, so we didn't get attached to a puppy that the other couple would pick out.  Since we weren't sure which one we liked best at any rate, that was an easy charge. We came home debating the issue, but didn't really have much in the way of conclusion except that we were pretty sure that we'd be happy with any of them..  We'd see them again in two weeks.

Irma always has a party to socialize the puppies at 6 weeks old. This is how we met Celosa for the first time four years ago. Lots of people come (mostly the entire local puli community) and we get to play with puppies and have a good time.
BrothersA puppy! Are you the one?

On March 2, we went back out to Irma's house and we were ready to party with the puppies.  Graham and I scrutinized them again, this time with a little more urgency. I think Irma thought we really liked Green, but this time around, he didn't really want to have much to do with us. Even more concerning, he didn't seem to want his tummy rubbed.  Blue was very much in the background, being sweet but not necessarily being outgoing about it.  It looked more and more like the other couple (who was there) was gravitating towards white, but they said they still had no idea which one they wanted.  Three of the four puppies got overwhelmed and went to a corner to relax.  Red, on the other hand, was with all of the people.  He didn't mind being picked up, and he seemed genuinely interested in the party.  He was quite social, and he reminded us quite a bit of Celosa.

And then this happened:
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He spent five minutes crawling around my skirt and on my legs and getting his tummy rubbed and otherwise saying "pick me! pick me!!"  Without talking about it much with each other, Graham and I started gravitating more and more towards him.

Finally, when it was time to go, we talked to Irma and said actually we really liked Red a lot, and if he were available, we'd love to have him.  If not, we thought Green had the most personality.  We drove to the ranch from the party, and we had no idea who was coming home with us.

Two days later, we got an e-mail from Irma letting us know that the other couple had picked White, so Fusilli would be Red.  We were really happy how it worked out. I suppose we could have let facebook and LJ know about all of this then, but we'd been keeping quiet (except on Happy Global Puli Tales and in person) so long, we sort of liked the surprise.

In the meantime, Irma continued with socialization. A troop of Brownies came over a few times the next week to hold and play with the puppies, so they got used to children. And Celosa cat-sat Jacques and Noirette (another story for another time).  Fusilli continued to grow.
Red (3-16-13)

The timing for Celosa we think is pretty good. Before Crianza died, she was quite outgoing at the dog park. She played with anyone who came near, and she lived pretty much without fear. The first few times without Crianza, though, she wasn't a very happy puppy. She stuck with us, and didn't talk to many of the other dogs.  Over time, she got a little more adventuresome; she talks to pretty much every person at the dog park.   But her play with lots of other pooches has never been quite like it was when she had a canine she trusted guarding her. She also has this weird chatter that sort of sounds like a howl/cry. Of course, she only uses it when she's out and about and in public and it seems to have gotten worse in the last few months. I think she just gets nervous (and she had the trauma of losing her sister and the accident happen pretty closely together).  At the same time, she loves to play so much. She harasses both Chicken and Zapata into play every time she sees them, and lately, she's been trying to engage the cats in play.
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And she loves us very much.

On Tuesday, we went back to Irma's house to pick up Fusilli.  He was an absolute wiggle worm.  He'd been separated from his brothers to get his first bath and to wait for us to get there.  He seemed terribly excited to see us, hopping up on his hind feet saying "pick me up! pick me up!" I could barely get pictures of him because he was moving so fast. He ran around a little outside to get rid of some excess energy, said goodbye to his brothers (two who will be in the area and I'm sure he'll see relatively regularly), and got ready to go to his new house.  As he's in the "S" litter, his registered name is Piroskai Silly Pasta, and his call name is Fusilli.  (Crianza was "K," so she was Piroskai Krianza, and Celosa was "O" Piroskai Osa es Celosa. Relampago was Prydain Stardust. We don't talk about it much.)
TongueTummycar ride
He was a really good puppy in the car, crying a little on the surface streets, but falling asleep once we hit the highway.   And then, it was time for the grand entrance.








So far, it's been pretty good.  I don't think she was really prepared for something like this, but who is?  They've gotten relatively well, and Wednesday morning, Celosa discovered that Fusilli can play. That made her like him a lot more than she did earlier. It took Crianza four days to play with Celosa after bringing Celosa home, and I was expecting it to take about as long for Celosa and Fusilli, but they got down to business fast.

Celosa can be a little irritated that he's ALWAYS there, but she can also jump on the couch/bed/chairs to get away if she wants.

He's a joy and a love.  He cuddles and wiggles and is always underfoot. He's pretty smart and likes to chew on things, so we get creative with ice and rubber toys and other chew-able things.  He's terribly active, but he's also terribly cute.

Graham's mom came for a visit on Wednesday, and she's been an awesome help. Fusilli hasn't been alone for much time at all since coming home.  My parents came over on Wednesday night, and we had fusilli for dinner in his honor.  He and Zapata seemed to get along.  This weekend, we're going to the ranch for the first time, and I'm sure he'll love that.  I'll take lots of pictures and hopefully get a flickr set or two organized.

Yay puppy!

Studyin'

smart
I can't believe it's been so long since I've had a proper update. 

I had my third day in London half drafted, but I've other things to talk about so maybe I'll get it later.  Perhaps I'll have some sort of Lenten vow (on top of my "work out every day" and "eat less crap" vague notions) to post more and London can be recapped then. 

Today, though, I talk about school. 

Back in 1997, I started the classwork for a Masters in Public Health. That spring, I took Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I was halfway through law school, and I was overjoyed to be studying something that didn't make me angry and depressed and just plain miserable. My school was a hippie school. Grading was qualitative rather than quantitative.  Public health people are by definition do-gooders. And I got along with my classmates much, much better than I did with those at the law school. Granted, I was still taking two interesting courses over at the law school (as well as an internship with the Harris County Attorney's Office).  But, I could just breathe better at the School of Public Health.  

That summer, I took a healthcare policy course while still at the County Attorney's Office, but for pay! Pitiful pay, but pay nonetheless.

And the next fall was the semester that I look back with awe. I took 20 hours of classes: 17 at the law school (which included a research position with one of my professors) and 3 at the school of public health. Plus another 10 or so hours of work for the county.  How the fuck I did that, I will never know. But I was highly motivated because I wanted to get the hell out of law school a semester early. And I did.  I graduated from law school in December 1997. 

The next semester was all public health.   Four lovely classes: Administration and Public Health, and Social and Community Aspects of Behavioral Health and my awesome awesome awesome Overview of Environmental Health.  And a really cool seminar on Dialog, Deliberation and Democracy.  Oh, and the bar exam.  I loved, loved, loved my classes, but by the end of the semester I was truly burned out.  And I couldn't find a job.  I had three more credits to finish up, plus a thesis, and then I was done.  But I didn't have it in me.  I'd been to four elite institutions of higher learning from the fall of 1991 to the spring of 1998.  I'd written more papers than I can count. I'd studied and worked and labored and done everything I could to learn. But for some reason, I couldn't get this one paper out of me.  

I went through a year and a half of pretty awful depression.  I wrote a paper on healthcare compliance for credit somewhere in 1999, but I just couldn't get motivated to work on my thesis.  I tried a few times, but I just couldn't find a topic that worked for me.  Most of my efforts were spent looking for a job.  

And so, when I was offered a job in December 1999 and  moved to California, I always sort of thought, Ok, maybe I'll finish later on.  

I moved back to Texas in 2002.  And I tried again two or three times.  I got pretty close in 2007, but then a paper came out that covered everything my thesis was going to cover.  I got dejected. 

Somewhere in that year, I got a letter saying that I was going to be dropped all together if I didn't register that semester and if I wanted to come back, I'd have to reapply.  I decided to let it go. 

Fast forward the early part of this decade.  A few friends had recently gone back to school to finish up projects that had been started decades ago.   My brother leaving for graduate school had parted by daring me to finish my masters before he finished his.  At a Planned Parenthood event a year or so ago, I'd heard from a current MPH student that the thesis was now optional, and you could take a class instead.  Finally, my friend James restarted a degree he'd started in the early 90s.  Most of his current classmates weren't even born when he was last in the program.  My husband decided that he would like to go back to school too. 

In September, having seen all these signs, I made an inqury at the School of Public Health about readmission.  I got an immediate e-mail back telling me that I had four days to reapply.  Holy crap! I quickly got a hold of my old advisor, who retired last semester but is coming back to teach this semester. And he wrote a letter of support.  I got all of the other documentation in right in the nick of time.  

And the next thing I knew, I was back.  The requirements had changed. Instead of 36 hours of class, I needed 45. But they now accepted more courses from the law school than they used to.  I was four hours short, but I needed to take this culminating experience class and an ethics course anyways.  I met with someone in student affairs who helped me fill out the paperwork that I needed to demonstrate that I'd taken everything I needed to. 

I was in New Student Orientation on January 8. And I've been in class for the last five weeks.  

Today, though, was when I truly felt back.  

Public health is a really broad discipline.  It can be anything from data analysis to community intervention to policy development to working in a lab.  We generally choose an area of inquiry, while having a passing knowledge of the rest of the discipline.   The capstone class is supposed to be a synthesis of all of the learning that we've spent our Master's study on.  There are a number of projects that we work on in the class, but we also are tested on the five core subjects of public health: epidemiology, bio-statistics, environmental health, health promotion and behavioral sciences, and management and policy sciences.  We have handouts that are basic reviews of the courses, but our professors encouraged us to "review our notes from those classes" to prepare for the tests.  

Needless to say, it's been over 15 years since I've taken any of these classes. I honestly started to panic. 

Fortunately, I'm anal, and I have all of my papers from my previous masters study on my computer (plus all of college, all of Oxford and all of law school). Bless my environmental health professor who made us turn in summaries of the lectures after each class.  And apparently, I wrote nothing for Social and Community Aspects of Behavioral Health, because I have nothing.  

So though I barely remember what a Chi-Square is or how the hell to do regression analysis (or hell, even a standard deviation), I began to sort through stuff last week. I decided that since I do the management and policy stuff every day, I'd ignore that and hope I wasn't missing out on some new theory.  And I went through the environmental stuff pretty quickly, really remembering how much I loved that class.  It was when I got to the behavioral stuff that things started to click.  I remembered specific lectures, and I remembered getting excited about a variety of theories.  Then, epi started coming back to me. Of course I remembered the well and John Snow (not a Game of Thrones reference), but I also started seeing stuff in the review material that I deal with peripherally every day: Clinical trials and research methodology.  Various rates and cohorts and case studies and more.  I looked at biostats, but I decided to punt on that aspect for now.  I had enough other stuff to worry about. 

So I studied for the first time in 13 years. Really studied.  The last time I studied for anything was the California Bar in 2000.  

Our first quiz was today.  It was done on the learning management software (this is new to me) during the first 30 minutes of class.  And the results were immediate.  I was well above passing.  We have to pass two of four of these tests to pass this course.  I'm much more confident that I'm going to have my masters in May than I ever have been.  I still have a ton of work to do, and I have to pass my ethics course as well.  But, I'm feeling good about this.  

And my over-education will be complete.  


For now anyways.  

Lost in a Good Bookshelf: 2013 edition

reading again
First Volume
Second Volume
Third Volume
Fourth Volume
Fifth Volume
Sixth Volume

For the last six years, I've been keeping track of my unread book pile in a post in Livejournal. I add books as I acquire them over the course of the year, and I cross them off as I read them. I have a Goodreads ccount that also keeps track of this sort of thing, but I kinda like the original.

At any rate, here's the list. It's very similar to last year's list, because I didn't read all that many books in 2012, and I tried not to buy toooo many books last year. It'll change over the course of the year, but I'm pretty good about noting when I get new books.

You will note that my mother is the source of many of my books. She almost always gives me her books when she is done with them.

FictionCollapse )
Non-FictionCollapse )

    And back to London

    Married to Graham
    Obviously, the rest of the trip was a bit more traditional, as far as vacations go. 

    We settled into a lovely pattern the next morning. Graham would get up before me, and he'd wander around our immediate surroundings in search of coffee. I'd steal the rest of his blankets and snuggle in for a few extra minutes of sleep. That first morning, he found a coffee shop around the corner called Anita's run by a man from Kosovo.  It turns out that Kosovar people are still pretty psyched about Americans, and the owner of the shop chatted with Graham a bit about how grateful they all were to Bill Clinton.   Graham actually was in the military back in the early 90s, and nearly went to Kosovo at one point, so he was conversant on the topic. 

    By the time he got back, I was ready to embark upon an adventure.  

    We dressed, and consulted our maps.  I'd made a google map f our hotel's location, the location of the clubs, and places that we might want to see.   This map proved invaluable throughout the trip, especially because we could zoom in on our immediate location and see what was around there.  

    british museumThe British Museum was a ten minute walk away, through a University.   We sort of stumbled upon it, walking in through a back door, and we didn't realize we were actually in the museum until we got into the massive atrium that surrounds the reading room.   We'd gone through a few exhibitions, but for whatever reason, we thought we were in a subsidiary building.  

    I stopped at a kiosk for a scone (with amazing butter!) and we consulted a few floor plans.  My object was Egypt, since I've been reading the Amelia Peabody books for well over 20 years. Graham's interest was more Rome and Greece.  We were pretty lucky, because outside of Rome, Greece and Egypt (and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), we were in probably the best place in the world to see artifacts from those countries.   

    Our timing was almost perfect, too.  We were about 30 minutes ahead of most of the tour groups that descended upon the museum en masse and with little regard for the other museum goers. 

    rosetta stoneAfter orienting ourselves, we turned into an exhibition hall and came face to face with the Rosetta Stone. I've been in the same space as important artifacts and pieces of art before, and I've always been suitably impressed, but this one is so important to human understanding that it was a little breathtaking to be standing right in front of it.  Of course, it was surrounded by tourists at almost all times. 

    There were halls upon halls of rooms from Egypt, and the artifacts were extraordinary. Lots of sculpture, lots of parts of rooms.  HUGE pieces of rock.  I didn't realize when we first walked in that this was just part of the Egyptian collection.  The mummies were in a different part of the museum. 

    elginAnd the Greek stuff was equally impressive, if a little funny to read about.  There was a little plaque somewhere describing how there was "discussion" about the appropriateness of some of the artifacts being there.  "Discussion" is a bit of a mild description of a debate hat has been going on for nearly two centuries now.  

    Still, it was hard to argue that the pieces were in disrepair or otherwise in bad shape because they were in a Museum in London rather than on the Acropolis in Athens.  

    The Roman collection wasn't as extensive as the Greek and Egyptian. We went upstairs to hunt that part of the exhibit.  And while there were plenty of artifacts, a lot of them were clearly acquired over time rather than directly from the source by the Museum's own scholars / looters.  My guess is that the Italians weren't as keen on exploration as the Greeks and Egyptians.  romanStill, there was plenty off really awesome stuff for my Romaphile husband to gawk over, and we spent a happy time pouring through statues, arms, pottery and other assorted items from the Roman era.  I was happy because the mosaic collection was quite extensive, taking up an entire stairwell in part of the building.  

    We wandered the rest of the museum with less purpose, just letting the exhibits come to us as they caught our fancy.  We lingered a little bit in the European collection, and we spent way too little time in the Middle East, except when we found all the mummies in the secondary Egypt part (which I adored). 

    graham romaphileIt was nearly lunchtime when we figured we'd absorbed as much as we could, and so we figured we'd eat in the museum cafe. I found a sandwich, and Graham some chicken.  Lunch was passable, but we'd come to regret it in about an hour.  

    After lunch, we sought out the gift shops, but we didn't find anything that really caught our eye, so we ventured out into the pretty day. 

    Pulling out the map, we realized we weren't that far from Covent Garden.  Of course London's streets are maddening in their ability to change name three times in the course of half a block. And in their inability to stay straight for any decent amount of time.  And the lack of "blocks".  3000 year old cities and their lack of central planning....   But we were really happy that Graham sprung for a data plan on his phone, so he could always access the map and figure out where the hell we were.    We did a pretty good job of navigating overground through tourists and locals at lunchtime.  

    covent gardenAnd soon enough I had to resist reenacting scenes from My Fair Lady, because we were passing the Opera House and at Covent Garden. It was charming and touristy and all decorated for Christmas.  Street performers were all over the place: an opera singer in the lower level, some guy with a boom box and some props making crowd members dance to Village People on the steps of St. Paul's Church. A string quartet at some point.  And there were stalls and shops open all over the place.  

    IMG_2192This is where we came to regret lunch.  On the south side of the market, there were food vendors set up.  Their food smelled delicious. Pastries, pies, burgers, paellas, and an assortment of other foods that just smelled delicious.  And by the look of the people standing patiently in line for the food, it probably was delicious.  If we'd known that these guys would be here, we would have gladly skipped generic museum cafe food

    Instead, we found a place to have a coffee and planned out our next move, enjoying the bustle around us.  

    London really feels like a city. There are people all over the place.  The streets always seem full, and I don't think I saw more than a half dozen parking places in all of the places we went in London.  A ton of the places we went were quite touristy, so there were people from all over the world around us. But even without the transient visitors, we thoroughly got the feeling that London was an international city. Certainly everyone spoke English, and a good hunk of the population looks Anglo Saxon. But a good hunk does not. But on the other hand, Graham, of Anglo Saxon ancestry, blended beautifully with the Brits.  Apparently, the olive tones in my complexion was more pronounced in a place where there aren't as many olive skinned people.  That's ok.  I blend very well along the Mediterranean. Graham, I fear, would not.  

    We decided our next step would be Harrods, and this would require a tube ride, our first since leaving the airport.  A helpful nearby map directed us to the tube, and in what turned into a humorous "will it never end?" commentary, we decided to take the stairs to the Underground instead of waiting for the lift.  All 192 stairs. At least it was down. 

    Harrods.  Yes, it's a department store. Yes it's ridiculous. But my god that food court! I went in search of the only thing my mother specifically requested: decaffeinated loose Earl Grey tea.  They didn't have any, but it was fun to explore all of the teas and coffees.  We went into the deli part, thinking that maybe we'd pick something up for the room since we had the mini kitchen in the studio.  But nothing appealed enough to stand in line for. We ventured past the sweets, seeing nothing that would work especially for Christmas.  

    And then the meats, the beautiful, beautiful meats.  A humorous exchange between Graham and one of the butchers near some beef:

    Butcher: May I help you, sir?

    Graham: No thanks. Just drooling.

    Butcher: Mind the glass. 

    In another section, a turkey was all trussed and prepared, presumably for homesick Americans. The red currants garnishing the turkey were a nice touch. I'm guessing that there aren't that many cranberries on the island.  We'd more or less forgotten about Thanksgiving until seeing this, and the butcher asked us when it was.  

    IMG_2198We ventured to the toy section after leaving the food halls.  I had read that they'd made the toy area gender neutral, and I wanted to see how that all panned out.  It was great! Extravagant and full of stuff, like the rest of Harrods, but lovely to walk through.  Some parts were still pink, because the packaging for those toys (*ahem* Mattel) was pink. But it certainly didn't feel like they were pushing girls in one direction and boys in another


    Of course, Graham and I were drawn the most to the ridiculous Harry Potter section. It was like catnip.  Authentic scarves, jumpers and cardigans from all the houses. Wands from every conceivable character. Maps and prints and random scraps from all the movies.  Horcruxes, snitches, flasks, broomsticks, and marauders maps.  It was ridiculous.  

    And of course we spent a ton of time there.  

    Later, we wandered through the electronics, and we saw some of the movie memorabilia on sale in other parts of Harrods. And after that, we sort of wandered aimlessly, eventually finding ourselves in the basement at the foot of the Egyptian staircase and the permanent memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi.   It looked unchanged from the last time I saw it in 2005, though it's beginning to feel a little dated.  I'd forgotten about it until we stumbled upon it again. 

    After Harrods, we headed back to the hotel for a nap.  It was mid-afternoon, and we were still jet-lagged and tired from the night before.  We'd walked a considerable amount that first day, well over 17,000 steps according to my pedometer.  But we were sure to set an alarm so we didn't sleep too much.  

    IMG_2203It was dinner time when we woke up, so after getting re-dressed, we embarked upon a quest for food, deciding to head back towards Camden and where the club was the night before.  We walked up and down the Camden High street looking at various restaurants and pubs, and we ultimately settled upon the Lyttleton Arms, which turned out to be absolutely perfect.  It was a warm and cozy, with plenty of seating and fantastic service.  I got cider and Graham a glass of wine, and we settled in for a lovely meal.  

    They were doing a lovely fixed price menu, so I ordered off of that, starting with Chicken and Chorizo skewers with red pepper dressing that were to die for. It took all of Graham's self-control to not devour them.  For my main, I ordered free range Glouchester Old Spot sausages on this amazing kale mash with red wine gravy.  I'd heard about the Glouchester Old Spot from some pork people here in Texas, and they were mighty tasty. The kale mash, though, was to die for.  I immediately started searching for recipes online as soon as I got back to the hotel, so as to ensure that I could make something like that later.   Graham had the Shropshire Roast Chicken with herb butter, red wine reduction, and fries. To die for.  

    I splurged for dessert and ordered an apple and rhubarb crumble with custard, and I do not regret a solitary bite.  We really had a lovely experience there.  Our waitress was attentive and nice, and she wrote "Happy Thanksgiving" on our bill.  We stumbled back to the hotel sated and happy, though a little wet as it rained a bit on our way. 

    Of course it did, this was London.  

    Married to Graham
    I feel ridiculously awful having abandoned this journal for so long given how well it has served in documenting my life.  

    And so, I document again. 

    London was absolutely fabulous and more than we could have ever hoped for.  

    It was touch and go for a little while on whether we'd go, or whether we'd both go.  I was pretty insistent that Graham make the trip no matter what, because it really was an amazing opportunity for him. But, my own status was a little iffy. Due to a contract being about half of what was expected, we had funds for one of us to go comfortably, but two of us was a stretch.  At the last second, my parents kindly gave us frequent flyer miles for one ticket, and we were off!

    We left on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  My mom was flying to San Francisco that same day to see my sister, and we ended up hanging out in the airport with her for a few hours because her plane ended up being delayed. 

    Due to separate tickets, Graham and I weren't seated together, but no one else ended up sitting in my row, so Graham moved in, and we sprawled.   It wasn't a particularly eventful flight. I slept a few hours, but not enough to really qualify as a real good night's sleep.  But soon enough we were landing at Heathrow, and Graham and I got to go through customs together for the first time.  I beamed "we're on our honeymoon" when the customs guy asked the purpose of our trip.  It was cute.

    The tube ride into town took awhile, but it wasn't bad.  The last stop on our line was "Cockfosters," and every time the lady announced it, Graham giggled.  And then I admonished him. The American couple sitting across from us did the same thing. 

    tiny roomOur hotel turned out to be very close to the Euston Square tube stop. Graham had downloaded a tube map to his phone, and it helpfully navigated us through King's Cross (sorry, we never made it to platform 9 3/4), onto another line, and to our hotel.  I'd found the hotel on Priceline by searching around the neighborhood that Graham's performance would be in. This place turned out to be perfect.  It took us about four minutes to find it from the tube stop, and we were checked in to our tiny studio by noon.   It was a double bed, chest of drawers, some shelves, and a wardrobe. But the wardrobe also had a microwave, mini fridge and sink.  There was a small table and a folding chair, and all of this fit into a room smaller than my office.  The bathroom was equally compact yet functional.  Perfect definition of "efficiency." 

    Graham and I unpacked, and we set forth to explore the neighborhood.  

    I don't think that we were any particularly defined neighborhood.  Euston was nearby, as was St. Pancras (which I always want to pronounce as the organ) and Kings Cross.  It seemed that Camden started on the other side of the railroad tracks. And though we sort of knew that it was very close, we never felt that we were IN the Regent's Park part of town.   It was really nicely located, since there were two tube stops within minutes of the hotel, and they were on different lines, so we could head out in multiple directions.  And later, we ended up walking several places directly from the hotel without having to use any transport.

    Bree louiseAfter orienting ourselves, we set off in search of food. The airplane swill was worse than usual, and we were hungry.  After looking at several Indian menus and a few small sandwich shops (and hearing Graham's laughter as I declared that I REFUSE to eat Mexican food on this particular island), we stumbled upon a pub that looked promising.   I ordered the fish and chips, which were good, but I probably should have ordered the pork and cider pie, since this pub was touting it's pie making ability.  Still, a pint of cider with some decent food in a pub was certainly appropriate for our situation. 

    At this point we started feeling the travel, and we knew we had a long night ahead of us that would eventually end around 4:00 a.m.  So contrary to ordinary accepted jet-lag fighting methods, we decided to mid-day nap for a few hours before Graham had to get to the show.

    I woke up and finally made my outfit decision. I'd brought at least three things that would work, but I still was a little disappointed that the dress I'd ordered (ironically, from the UK) hadn't gotten to me in time for the show.  I ended up wearing a pink cashmere sparkly cami with a black lace mullet skirt along with a black cashmere wrap and a feather headdress I'd bought at the Renaissance fair the week before.  Graham, of course, looked hot in the pants from our wedding, a black checked shirt, and a cap.

    kokoWe needed to get there a little early so Graham could work out the logistics of how the show would work.  It turns out our hotel was PERFECTLY placed. We just had to walk up the road about ten minutes (running into an honest-to-goodness urban fox on the way), turn right, and suddenly, the Koko theater was there, lit up and ready for the show.  Scalpers saw us and immediately started making pitches to buy/sell tickets.  The club where the after-party that Graham was djing was right across the street from the theater, and as soon as we walked in, they knew who we were.  The manager of the club gave Graham access to a back room, so he could store his laptop and dj gear during the show.  And Ed, the guy who'd organized the after-show, introduced himself. 

    Afterwards, we went to a coffee shop for a chai latte and orange chocolate tart (me) and regular latte (Graham).  Of course, Graham couldn't sit still, so he went back over to double check on something.  

    When it looked like they were letting people into the theater, we walked over.   We were directed to a person with "the list" and of course, she couldn't find us.  So she called someone and then looked at us and said, "I'm supposed to say 'howdy'." 

    The theater was gorgeous.  It opened in 1900, and it was still gilded with gold and red.  The seats were mostly gone, but there were bars on various balconies.  And there were tons of different levels and nooks and crannies.  

    We got some drinks at the bar, and then we ventured outside with the smokers.  dapper grahamGraham immediately made friends, and I don't think I've ever seen him so comfortable, even among people he's known and loved for years.  He chatted with people of all stripes, and everyone was amazed at how we'd flown across the pond for this show.  Of course, here, as opposed to the US, everyone knew Caravan Palace and electroswing, so he was in a crowd that was friendly to his cause.  But still, it was amazing to watch my husband work the non-inconsiderable crowd. 

    We ran into Nick Hollywood, who was responsible for our being there. Nick is a dj and record producer, part of Freshly Squeezed records.  He and Graham struck up an internet friendship over electroswing awhile back, and he had a lot to do with this particular concert. When he announced on facebook that Caravan Palace would be playing in London for the first time, feather stina Graham joked on facebook that he'd love to open for them. Nick answered, "play the after-party!" and the next thing we knew, Graham was on the bill.  It was a treat to meet Nick and to thank him.  Our being in the building was a pretty awesome thing, as the show had sold out months ago, and we just waltzed on in.  

    We settled in for the show on the top level of the theater, where we could still see the stage, but we weren't in the mass of people.   There were plenty of people who'd taken our strategy, though, so we certainly weren't alone.  

    The first group on was an Italian trio called Swingrowers. Guitar, singer and dj.  Their singer seemed overwhelmed that she was part of this bill, but she was really awesome. Lots of energy, lots of fun. I knew a few of theirs songs, and I really liked the others.  After a few years of being the only electroswing household in a city, it was pretty awesome to be not only with other enthusiasts, but SEVERAL of the musicians and producers that put it together.  

    Between acts, Graham went to get some swag from the show, a tee shirt and a poster.   He came back a little baffled. The guy selling the merchandise not only had heard of Graham, he'd heard some of his music on soundcloud.  That sort of put this whole "you're performing for people who love this stuff" thing into perspective.  Other guys he'd met while moving through the theater were promising to go to the after-party.  
    caravan
    And then Caravan Palace.  

    This group is responsible for the electroswing thing in my house and, by extension, for the success of my husband as a professional dj. I don't remember how Graham found them, but one day, I came home and he said "listen to this."  I listened. I thought it was amazing. I spent days watching their youtube videos and I stole music from Graham's itunes.  Graham hunted high and low and found everything he could on the internet.  And then he started looking for more music with a similar sound.  And then he djed at Flipside 2011, and then started getting gigs in Houston and Austin, and shortly afterwards got a residency at Prohibition. History, rest, etc., etc.

    While a lot of electroswing is remixed in a studio by a producer, most of Caravan Palace is live performance, with amazing musicians and an unbelievably talented singer.   I was just transfixed by the show.  I couldn't believe how they could play and play and sing with such energy.  I was dancing my ass off way up in the rafters, and the crowd below was going insane. It was an amazing performance that I'll remember well as the rest of this unbelievable night.  Here are two You Tube videos that people took that night (one, two), but of course, they don't compare to actually being there. 

    When the concert ended, we went back over to the Purple Turtle, the club.  Originally, Graham was going to be the first dj of three booked for the after-party.  But Swingrowers decided that they wanted to go first (probably so they didn't have to stay on until 2:30 a.m. given they had a show the following night too).  So Graham got moved to be the "headliner" at the top of the bill.  

    London debutAgain, my husband worked the room. He found some of the other djs and electroswing folk, including one that went out of his way to invite us to a party on Saturday night because he enjoyed Graham's djing so much.  Graham knew him from the internet and had recently put the dj's music on one of his recent soundcloud mixes.  A lot of djs and producers in Europe  like what Graham does, and automatically send their music to Graham when it comes out.  He's established relationships in half a dozen countries, and if we'd had more time, I think we could have put together a show in Paris and probably somewhere in Germany.  

    He chatted a little more with Nick and the manager of Caravan Palace, who asked for Graham's contact information.  Everyone was so blown away by the idea that we'd fly across the ocean for this night. We explained that it was also our honeymoon, which got some oohs and congratulations.  But still, Graham's commitment to the genre got all sorts of points.  The music, of course, was awesome, and the crowd got to about 150, 200 people about an hour into the show, including all of the Caravan Palace band members.  I was pretty happy that we got to thank them for the show personally.  

    After Captain Flapcap, Graham went on.  It was 1:30 in the morning, and the concert had been over about two and a half hours.  The hard core were still there, but it was a school night, and Thanksgiving wasn't the next day for these people.  happy crowd 

    Graham set up a Texas flag in front of his rig. And he was off.  His set was fast paced and designed to get as many people dancing as much as possible.  It was a challenge, because this was a knowledgeable crowd. He wanted to please, but he didn't want to play the same stuff that a) the other djs had played, and b) stuff that everyone had heard over and over again.  Of course, the good stuff tends also to be the popular stuff, and obscure doesn't necessarily mean outstanding.  But Graham managed to find that center, and there was a hard core group that didn't leave the dance floor for the full hour. 

    I made some friends, too. The word had gotten out that we were on our honeymoon, and some girls thought it was terribly romantic. They hugged and kissed me and they danced with or near me for most of the night. This meant, of course, that the guys that were interested in these girls (and some in me!) were also nearby.  It was terribly fun.  Two Frenchmen coordinated an attack, not realizing I was married to the dj.  Graham said it was sort of funny to watch people hitting on me from on stage.  

    He said later that he was nervous for about a half-second, but as soon as he started djing, it all went away.  A year and a half of djing two nights a week, sometimes more, almost every weekend, helped.  Plus, he was just loving every moment of it.   By the end of the evening, everyone was covered in sweat, but I think everyone loved it.  Graham gave his Texas flag to Ed, the guy who'd put the show together.   Ed was floored, and Graham pointed out that he lives in Texas, and it's fairly easy to get another one for us.  The owner of the club noted that Graham was probably the first American to ever play there.  

    Since it was so late, we left the club shortly after Graham's set was over.  The walk back to the hotel didn't seem to take much time at all, and we were both still just amazed at this amazing night we'd just had.  

    I don't think it would have been possible to be more perfect.  Everyone was so welcoming and nice to us. The music was great.  Graham was amazing.  I got to dance to my husband's European debut, and we still had another three days.  

    Halloween, a retrospective

    costume
    So I was thinking about Halloween and my costume this year, and I thought that I'd walk down memory lane.

    This will be my tenth year going to my friend Candyman's Halloween party. It's a pretty legendary party, and people clamor for invitations. I was at his house last night, helping to set up. I'll go over again tomorrow to throw on some of the finishing touches. My Halloween costume this year is nearly done. It's going to be a lot colder than I thought, so I'll probably need to get something to throw on my shoulders. And I have a DIY project that I need to borrow my dad's anvil for, but otherwise, I think it's pretty good. 

    But anyhow, these are the last ten years, plus some bonus years:
    • 2011 The year of the peacock.  I was working on all my wedding stuff then, and had a ton of peacock related items around the house.  I ended up getting a peacock feather tattooed to my back right before the wedding.  I used a slip I already had, a corset that I already had, and I bought the fans and the mask and a scarf.  I really liked this costume quite a bit. And I used everything I bought in my wedding later on.   I skipped my 20th high school reunion for this party.  I went the night before to a football game with alumni instead.   
     2011 2 halloween
    • 2010 The throw everything costume-y on and see what happens year.  I was working off of a Venetian mask and cape idea. I also was fond of the blue crinoline and the white corset.  A lot of my friends thought I was going as my friend Buttery, as she tends to wear the corset / tutu combination quite a lot.  She's also, er, busty and tends to show a lot of cleavage. Since she wasn't there that year, it was sort of perfect. 
    halloween 2010
    • 2009  Spice Girl. Specifically, Cinnamon Spice.  I went to the spice markets next to Caninos on Airline market and bought a TON of cinnamon sticks.  I hot glued them to a shift I found at Target. And I made a pattern on the bodice out of star of anise and cloves.  I smelled WONDERFUL.  I threw on a wig and a red scarf that I already had.  I wish there were a better picture of the dress. It sort of resembled a flapper dress. 
    027

    • 2008 Marvin the Martian.  I spray painted a plastic roman gladiator helmet green.  I borrowed Buttery's green tutu, and I wore a red shirt and red tights from Urban Outfitters.  I also had a black mask with big white eyes  I made out of pantyhose, but that came off pretty quickly due to inability to drink and / or breathe.
     October 2009 030
    • 2007 Free Radicals.  This was the year that Burning Man was the theme, but I didn't technically know that.  We'd just come back from my first year on the playa.  Buttery, Smash, Leslie and I made playa type costumes.  We all did the same thing,but they were different in execution. We took strips of fabric and turned them into skirts. We wore corset tops, and we wore top hats. I made a boa out of pink fake fur, and I wore extravagant false eyelashes.  The picture below is with Buttery; the four of us never managed to get together for a shot.  It was one of my favorite parties. 
     Candyman's Halloween 2007 003
    • 2006. Go Go dancer.  I found a really cute mini dress at a thrift store. So I paired that with a beehive wig and bright green go-go boots and hit the town.  That day also happened to be my 15th high school reunion, so I went to that wearing the costume.  Some of my classmates' wives thought that's what I normally looked like. 
    IM000767

    • 2005 Mozart groupie.  I'd found this AWESOME tee-shirt from Glark.com. So I paired it with pleather jeans, white makeup and a powdered wig.   I LOVED this costume.  It was probably my least favorite of the parties, due to some drama, but it was a great costume. 
    IM000394

    • 2004 (no picture) I had a dinner engagement at a fancy restaurant before the party. So I wore nice clothes and I put a latex stake over my heart and bite marks on my neck.  I also had a dribble of blood going down my chin.  At the restaurant, people kept coming over to my table to ask how I did it.  Apparently the concept of latex and spirit gum had not seeped through the masses yet.   This was the first party at Candyman's house, and it was really hot.  My brother went as Kenny from South Park, and he almost never breaks character.  It nearly killed him. 
    • 2003 Montecore the white tiger.  My brother went as Roy, who had been mauled by Montecore a few weeks before Halloween. I went as the tiger who mauled him.  I found a latex cat face and played with makeup. I also made a white striped tank top and striped a blonde wig.  It's pretty amateur, but it was a lot of fun.  (Don't ask about the picture, I have no idea.)  This was the first year I started going to Candyman's parties. That year, his house wasn't finished yet, so we had a roving party bus instead. 
    im000405

    From 1998 to 2001ish (I think there may have been one in 2002, but I don't remember seeing many photos), there was a party in Las Vegas called Viva Las Buffy.  I went to three of them.  They were fun. 
    • 2002  Recycled Devil Went Down to Georgia. Still one of my all time favorite costumes. I gave the hat to gttygrl.  I have no idea what happened to the jeans, though I originally got them at Hot Topic.  The picture below is from 2000 in Las Vegas when I originally wore the costume. I don't remember what party I went to in 2002, but I remember re-wearing the costume.  I was living in Houston, but I hadn't gone to one of Candyman's parties yet. My livejournal is not helpful. Apparently I met a guy from my lawyer board who was in town on a deposition from, and I later went to a party and was hungover the next day
    stina&sarahnicole
    • 2001  Alice in Chains. Last Buffy PBFP that I went to.  *sniff*  I bought a blue mini dress, apron and blonde long wig. I also went to Good Vibrations and bought as much chain related bondage gear as I could afford. The Pièce de résistance were the nipple clamps attached to my nipples.  I had another party to go to that night, so I walked by myself down Las Vegas Boulevard, forgetting that there was a fetish convention in town.  (sorry for crappy quality, I took a picture of the photo.  We're entering pre-digital camera stages....)  I skipped my ten year high school reunion for this party. The Warp Core Breech and evading the security guard in the Holiday Inn was INFINITELY better.
    photo (3)
    • 2000  The first year of the Devil Went Down to Georgia. In Las Vegas.  This was the awesome year when I slept with KitCat before meeting her and there was the *nsync thing. This was also the year that I was in Vegas for 36 hours and got sleep in none of them.  I'm pretty sure that this was my favorite costume. 
    • 1999 No idea, probably because I couldn't make it to Vegas that year.  
    • 1998  Angel of death. First Viva Las Buffy party.  I was dating jasheffe at the time, and we had a really lovely trip. 
    • 1997  Scary pirate.  I was still in Law School, and my cousin Nicole showed up at one of our parties with a guy who would turn out to be a great colleague of mine. 
    • 1996  Emma Peel.  It was an awful, awful costume. I wore a lot of black. 
    I can't remember the details of 1995 or before. 

    I have no memory of Halloween when I was at Oxford, so I'm betting that we didn't do anything when I lived there.  Surprisingly for the amount of alcohol that was consumed when I lived there, I remember most of the various events at Oxford.    

    I was Indiana Jones and an Indian in college at various points, and some years I didn't bother with a costume. 

    The end of the tunnel

    clean up
    I was hoping that this would be my ever final update to the kitchen renovation series, but there will be a few more posts. I hadn't updated since the back splash went in a few weeks ago because there really wan't much to update. We were living off the microwave and the grill in a mostly functional kitchen.

    But by and large, we are done now.

    When we left off, we were still waiting for the stove. IKEA, it turns out, doesn't order things. You can get items when they're in stock, but if they're not in stock, you just have to wait for them to come back into stock. IKEA in Houston, it also turns out, is independently owned. Which means that the eleven stoves in Dallas couldn't be transferred to the store in Houston. So we had no idea when the stove was going to come in. We were told that it'd probably be about six weeks, but keep calling just in case. Of course, since the kitchen special was going on, everyone else in Houston that remodeled their kitchen with the idea of putting this stove in was also waiting. This led to a series of phone calls by both me and Graham every other day to IKEA. We'd ask if the stove was coming in. They'd say no, check on Friday. We'd hang up, dejected. We'd then call on Friday, and be led on until Wednesday. This went on for about a month.

    There were rumors of a shipment of five coming in on Sunday the 12th, which led Graham to get up at 10:30 in the morning (after working until three) to call and be denied. On Wednesday the 15th, I heard about a possible single on a Friday the 17th shipment. I remembered about that rumor when I was at a work lunch with my colleagues on Friday. So I slipped away to the bathroom to call Graham to ask him to call IKEA. As we were driving back to the office, Graham called to tell me that there was one at the store! I gasped. Graham asked them to hold it for us. They said they weren't supposed to. Graham begged. They'd only hold it for us for an hour. Graham agreed. My boss asked if I needed to be dropped off straight at home, but since my car was at the office, we raced back.

    It was the fastest trip to IKEA ever. We ran through the store, knowing the maze by heart by this point. And gasping, we were met some by amused IKEA staff who held our stove for us. VICTORY!!! It was delivered the next day, and Graham and I put it together and into place.


    That weekend, we worked a little more on the backsplash tiling, but discovered we need a real tile saw for the job. But we finished the baseboards and the floor transition trim and the toe kicks.

    There were some delays in getting the range installed, because our electrician had gone MIA and there were some problems with the 220 plug. Our super plumbers, though, were able to get the gas hooked up by Wednesday, and their dispatcher, who we've gotten to know very well, recommended another electrician. He came out and had everything up and running also on Wednesday.

    In the meantime, our amazing, wonderful, can't believe how awesome it is counter top for the island arrived on Tuesday. It's such a pretty blue shade, and it goes so perfectly with the rest of the kitchen. The installers said it was the easiest job this month, as it's a single slab with no cuts or seams.
     
    We had our first real meal off of it on Wednesday. Graham made pasta, which was one of the most awesome pastas I've had. And then on Sunday we went to the grocery store and Costco and spent hundreds of dollars on food, because we can now cook and are sick of eating out. We tested the oven on Sunday night with a pork roast and asparagus and mashed potatoes.

    We hosted Geek night on Monday making fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. It was AWESOME to have a bunch of people over watching us cook. We could both work without getting in the way of each other. And we could interact with our friends who were on the other side of the island.

    Celosa and Noir are pretty happy with the situation. Celosa HATED the kitchen at first. She left the house to stay with my parents on June 27 when it was the way she remembered, and she came back on July 29 with a totally different set up. She had trouble remembering that she couldn't go outside through the bedroom anymore, and she just didn't like that her house had been screwed up. But she got over it pretty quickly, and now I think she likes that she has a lot more room to run in the kitchen/living/dining room.

    Noir has been watching the renovation since it started. He would come in and say hi to the workmen and ask for food in the middle of the construction zone. Now, he comes by for breakfast and sometimes he likes to just chill out on the kitchen floor. I think he likes the tile. Celosa likes Noir.

    We still have a bit to do. We have to finish the back splash. We have to install the range vent hood. We have to finish the trim on the ceiling between the kitchen and dining room. And we need to get the dining room table from my parents house and move it to our house.  
    But for now, this will do.  

    On ignorance of reproduction

    snakes
    Until I started actively trying to get pregnant, I didn't really truly understand how complicated and iffy the whole thing is. I've been a volunteer for Planned Parenthood since the 1992 Republican national convention. I've been on many types of birth control. I've led some sex education classes. I've practiced a lot. I've considered myself fairly knowlegeable about the whole process. I didn't realize how spread out, over almost a week, the timing between having sex and "being pregnant" (whatever that means) was. And I had always thought that in order to get pregnant that ovulation happened BEFORE copulation.

    Fortunately, around the time we started talking about "hey, maybe it's time to get off the pill", this post was published at Obsidian Wings. And, a few months later, we started "trying". Which generally involves a lot of peeing on sticks and taking my temperature in the morning and then timing (more) sex on days when charts and graphs and hormone levels and the stars are aligned.

    There's this rough window of about six days when I may be fertile. Five days before ovulation, and maybe the day of. Based on the calendar estimation of things, it should start about eight days after the first day of my last period. But because I'm weird, my basal body temperature doesn't start dipping until thirteen days afterwards.

    But this is the salient part for us:

    That is, you get pregnant by having sex the day *before* you ovulate, not the day you do. Summarizing a bunch of technical talk: sperm are fairly tough, they can keep swimming in a congenial environment (like, say, a woman's Fallopian tubes) for maybe 4-5 days. The egg, though, has to delicately balance a huge number of processes at once. She can't move very far or fast, and she doesn't stay ready for action for more than half a day at the outside, often only for 6 hours or less.

    So basically, in order to get to a pregnancy the sperm have to be all in place, milling around in the Fallopian tubes in their microscopic Speedos, elbowing and trash-talking each other (the technical term is sperm competition), while the egg is putting the final touches on her makeup and balancing that damn bird on her head. (ed note: There's a picture here in the original post)

    When she finally heads out the door to the party (ovulation), the guys need to be there already. Then they can meet up and seal the deal within a few hours: conception. The zygote (aka "fertilized egg") then moseys down the Fallopian tube and into the uterus, dividing all the way, and then finally lands on the uterine wall (implantation), which is when pregnancy begins and the woman's body starts changing.


    So we have lots of sex and hope for the best. But there's that period between sex and ovulation where everything is just iffy. Fertilization doesn't generally happen until a day or so after sex, sometimes more. And then implantation doesn't happen for a few days after that. Even then, only 20 percent of the time does this process work all the way through.

    Now-ish, I'm in that weird no-man's (heh) land between ovulation and (possible) implantation, and for roughly two weeks every month, I have no idea if I'm pregnant or not, and there's no way to tell until next week if I skip an expected period and a pregnancy test comes back positive.

    BUT, according to the way we calculate pregnancy, if I am pregnant, I am already over three weeks pregnant, even though I didn't ovulate until (probably) six days ago. And the relevant sex could have been as far out as 11 days ago.

    So if I am pregnant, I won't know which of several attempts caused the pregnancy, and I have absolutely no idea when "conception"--or, the term I prefer, fertliization--occured. Fertilization doesnt happen until usually at LEAST the day after sex. Pregnancy, as defined as "pregnancy tests come back positive and the human body has started adapting itself to have this foreign body in it for about 37 weeks", doesn't happen until implantation.

    So going back to the Dr. Science posted above, the sequence of events is:

    So the sequence is:

    1. Intercourse
    2. a day or more passes
    3. Ovulation
    4. a few hours pass
    5. Conception
    6. about a week passes
    7. implantation begins
    8. a week passes
    9. pregnancy test comes back positive


      And of course, this is all plus or minus depending on a whole laundry list of circumstances. I didn't know the details of this before last March, mainly because until then, I pretty much wanted to stop the whole thing at step one in the list above. And I like to think of myself as fairly sophisticated on human reproduction with more of a bent of looking at the whole thing as a process than some magical moment.

      So I'm not terribly surprised, given my own ignorance of the process, that there are a TON of people out there that have no idea how the whole process works aside from the basic "sex-->fertilization-->pregnancy" thing. And that's the people without some sort of ideological agenda that they want to insert into this process.

      Picking up my pen, er, keyboard.

      word picture
      I signed up today for one of Inprint's writing workshops.

      Now that the kitchen renovation has died down (countertop on the island will be installed on Tuesday, who knows when IKEA will have our stove in, some minor trim work to be done), I have time for other projects, and I think I really want to get a little more serious about writing.

      I have a dozen half written stories and other projects sitting on various computers and clouds and blogs, and I'm hopeful that some structure to my week will help me focus on them a little more. I know that in order to write, I have to, well, write. But I also know that I'm a little terrified of the prospect. Having a structure will help.

      The workshop starts in about a month, and it will last ten weeks.

      Tags:

      Selling out

      burn baby
      We put our Burning Man tickets on the market last night. They were almost instantly snatched up, which didn't surprise me at all. But it made me sad.

      I knew awhile ago that we weren't going to make it this year, even though I really hoped that we'd figure out a way to pull it off with everything else we were doing. The wedding, Graham's surgery and the kitchen renovation were all so bunched together that we never really had an opportunity to raise our heads and breathe. We wouldn't have been able to start Burning Man prep until this week, which is certainly doable, but not ideal.

      In addition, from about April forward Graham sort of wanted to go to Europe for a proper honeymoon instead of Burning Man. He's done five burns, and the idea of the time and effort to haul everything out to the desert was really stressing him out. I liked the idea of Europe, but I also didn't mind the hauling stuff out to the desert as much as he did.

      In early June, Graham got word of an opportunity to dj in Europe in late November. It's not finalized yet, and it's certainly not the type of gig that would be fully funded, but it's a pretty amazing once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing that we would actually regret not doing. We'll probably go to Paris for a few days and then hop over to London for the event. And we will have an awesome time. I am not upset in the slightest that we're choosing to do this over Burning Man.

      But that doesn't mean that I'm not sad about not going to the playa. Our friends have started Burning Man prep in earnest, and every other post on facebook and on various lists seems to be about it. A lot of our friends are going, and their plans seem really fun and interesting. We were going to have another marriage celebration out there, because we didn't invite anyone from California Gigsville to the wedding thinking that we'd do something out there instead. I was really excited about the idea of it, especially since that is where Graham and I met. That the theme this year is "fertility 2.0" while we're trying to get pregnant doesn't help my state of mind about this either.

      It's been four burns now since I've been. And if we start having kids in the next year, it will be a long time before I can go again. Sure, you can take kids to the playa or leave kids home with grandparents while you go. But not next year, when I'm hopefully breastfeeding someone under six months old. Or probably the year after that. And if Graham thinks it's a pain in the ass now, it's certainly not going to get any easier with having kids.

      I know that once the Burn is over, and when we start getting ready for our honeymoon in Europe, this feeling of sadness will subside. We're going to California to visit some friends for their housewarming in September. But right now, it sucks that you can't do everything that you want to do.

      Ceramics and chalks

      pixie's stina
      Celosa was unimpressed with the new kitchen. In fact, she took a massive dump on the kitchen floor shortly after seeing it for the first time.

      Actually, it turns out that she got a little sick, so her dramatic reaction to the kitchen may have had more to do with her upset tummy than it did her feelings about the new layout. She continued to be sick on Monday and Tuesday, but seemed to be on the road to recovery after a visit to the vet (21.7 pounds for those counting at home).

      In the meantime, Graham and I started the ambitious project of installing the back splash. At first, Graham was doing everything, since I went to a spin class last night. But when I got home, we got into the rhythm of my putting the mastic on the wall and then aligning the tile, while he cut the tiles that needed to be cut and dealt with the electrical issues.

      I think it turned out rather well.



      In the middle of tiling, Celosa went to her food bowl and had some kibble. It was the first time she'd shown interest in her food bowl since coming home on Sunday night. She also drank a huge bit from her bowl. We tried not to get too excited, but it was nice to see her returning to her old self a bit.

      We retired to watch the Olympics after our tiling was complete.

      This morning, we found that though it had slipped a little in some places, the tile seemed to have held nicely.



      Graham went to the hardware store as soon as it opened for some rubber gloves, a new trowel and a mop. And by the time I was leaving for work, he was on his way to installing the grout. We had bought a blue tinted grout from Home Depot a few weeks ago, and we were anxious to see how it'd turn out.

      I came home for lunch, and much progress had been made.



      We had the perfect amount of grout for this part of the kitchen, and I think the job looks great. It was pretty tedious to ensure that everything was straight and level, but it was also pretty straightforward. And the grout was awesome at hiding some elements, like around the switch plates where it was challenging to fill entirely with tile.

      We have a bit more to do on the wall with the sink. But we ran out of both tile and grout. The tile is easy: we can just go to Home Depot. But the grout had to be ordered online, so it'll take a few days before we can do that part of the project. That's ok. We have plenty of other things to do.

      And, while I was home I took the chalk board wall for a spin.



      We'll hope now that she's feeling better that she'll see it that way too.

      Nearing the end.

      I wish
      So when we left, we were hoping and praying that the electrician would come on Friday so we could move on to the next steps.

      The electrician didn't come.

      Graham nearly fired the guy, but I suggested that we give him the weekend. I had strong suspicions that he was doing our job on his free time, and his weekends were more likely to be free than not. Graham relented, especially when considering the cost of having someone else come in to do the job when it was halfway done. Not to mention it wouldn't be done any sooner.

      So Graham, instead went to work on finishing up the drawers on the island. He installed the fronts and the handles, and it looked awesome.



      He went to work on Friday night, so I decided that I didn't need to wait for the electrician to start the painting of the chalkboard walls. I was nervous as hell about it, but I'd gone to Home Depot at lunch for some Frog Tape, and I had a level. So I got started.




      It was long, laborious work, but it was something that needed to be done. I didn't realize how many coats I'd need to use for the chalkboard paint to get on, but I totally got into the process.

      I could have stopped to watch the opening ceremonies, but I decided that I'd rather watch them with Graham. So when I was done painting, I started organizing some of the crap in the living room into the drawers that had finally been installed.

      Graham got home sometime in the middle of the night, and we slept until maybe nine, because the electrician had said he'd be by at 10:30.

      We watched the opening ceremonies while waiting for him to come. And when I called at 11:00, he said he'd be there in an hour. And at 12:15, he showed up.

      He worked for four hours, and installed eight regular outlets, one 220 outlet and one light switch. He also connected the dishwasher and disposal.

      Since there wasn't much for us to do while he was working, we watched Olympics. Fencing, beach volley ball, regular volley ball, and some other random sports. The iPad app is pretty cool for finding Olympic coverage.

      Because of the delays, his charge for the electrical bill was embarrassingly low. Like, ohmigodican'tbelievethis low. But it was excellent work. The installation of the outlets in the island (including one with USB ports, so plug space isn't taken by Apple products of various vintage) was outstanding. As much of a pain in the ass as his communication skills were, his work (and his cost) was amazing.

      When he left, Graham and I did a bit of a happy dance, and then we high tailed it to Home Depot to buy some 3/4 inch cabinet grade plywood decking for the island. I also picked up some trim for the floor, though it turned out to be the wrong size.

      And then we went home and went to work. The decking had been cut PERFECTLY at Home Depot. And even better, the side panels on the island that tested the strength of our marriage the week before was installed AMAZINGLY well, by the two of us. And we now had a working island. We put the laminate strips on the edges so it'd blend better, and until the Silestone shows up sometime in the next two weeks, it will be very functional.



      Then, Graham and I went to work on separate projects. I started a second coat of paint on the chalkboard walls, and also on the accent cut out in the dining room. It had been a different shade of blue that was going to clash, so I thought it'd be easier just to paint everything the same color.




      In the meantime, Graham worked on the microwave cabinet that hadn't been able to go up until the electricity had been sorted. He patched some drywall, installed the cabinet, installed the shelf, and organized the cabinet.



      We also started moving stuff into the kitchen. Plants on the windowsill, appliances on the counter tops or in the island. Drawers got organized. We started making a lot of decisions about how we were going to live.

      We stopped at around 9:00 and got something to eat while we watched Olympic coverage.

      We were up pretty early. Graham was overjoyed that he could actually make coffee using the microwave and a French Press. I was just happy that things were moving quickly.

      We did some more organizing in the morning. I pulled the tape off of the chalkboard walls. Graham moved some more items and pulled the paper and plastic off the floors. It was starting to look real.

      Compare yesterday morning:

      to Friday morning.

      As soon as 10:00 rolled around, we hopped in the car and took off for IKEA. Our mission: shelving for over the window and under cabinet lighting.

      Actually, we had a pep talk about the shelving before we left, and it turns out that we had been on two entirely separate pages. Fortunately, we talked it out and went in with a game plan.

      By now, we know IKEA pretty well, and we knew exactly where to go. The lighting turned out to be slightly more expensive than anticipated, because we will end up using two systems instead of one. But one of the things we noticed the previous night was that the under cabinet lighting will turn out to be necessary. And of course, I wanted the color changing LED.

      Shelving wise, Graham had an epiphany, and instead of broken up shelves over the window and the refrigerator, he created a long shelf over the whole wall. It's just brilliant.

      We met some friends for brunch, and then took them home to watch us install shelving and move into our new pantry. We were really glad that they came over, because we could really see how functional the kitchen was for entertaining while working in the kitchen. Very easy to chat while doing other things, and our guests were comfortably sitting at the island while we worked.



      After they left, Graham and I went into hard core cleaning mode. I hung art. Graham scrubbed the hell out of the tile floors and the wood floors right next to the kitchen. I moved as much as possible from the living room and dining room to the kitchen, cleaning as I went. Graham helped me repair my desk, and then we moved it to its new space. I flipped the sofa and the chairs in the living room. Graham installed one of the lights over the coffee station cabinets.

      Our goal was to get the house as ready as possible for Celosa, who would be coming back from the ranch that night. I went to the recycling place to take all of the boxes off of the front porch. I loaded the car with all the crap to take to Goodwill.

      My parents got to our house around 8:00ish, and Celosa raced into the house. She wasn't really thrilled about the idea, especially about the door being cut off from our bedroom to the kitchen. She now has to go all the way around to go outside from the bedroom (though that will change sooner or later when we install a patio door in the bedroom).

      Graham cooked steaks on the grill last night, and he made some veggies in the microwave. It was our first meal prepared in our new kitchen.

      And this is what the house looked like right before I left for work this morning:






      So it's almost done. We still have to wait for the countertop and the stove. And when the stove comes in David will come back to install the hood. And while he's here, we'll use his truck to pick up a dining room table that my parents want to give us.

      And we still have some projects to finish in the next week or two.

      1. Backsplash.
      2. Under counter lighting on the other side/
      3. Toe kicks (and install trim between dishwasher).
      4. Move overhead lights and add rail.
      5. Floor transition board.
      6. Base boards install.
      7. Upper trim install

      But holy crap is this thing different than when we started! 29 days ago they took out the cabinets, and now this. It feels like a whole new house.

      Painting in lieu of power

      artsy
      So Graham had jury duty today. And the electrician--who neglected to show up on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday--was supposed to show up at nine. So I informed my boss that I'd have to stay home for awhile this morning.

      And Lo and behold! Raul was here at 8:55 this morning. Graham showed him what to do, kissed me, and took off for jury duty.

      I held down the fort for 30 minutes, while Raul cut away at the drywall (but not the shiplap underneath). It was not an overwhelming success. At 9:40ish, he told me he had to get some supplies and check on another job and he'd be back at two.

      I went to work.

      Graham got out of jury duty (he kept on stating "It depends on the eccentricities of the case" to every question asked of him), and got home in time to wait for Raul.

      Who said he'd be back at 11:00 tomorrow.

      There was a lot of gnashing of teeth and some foul language, because really, we could have a functional kitchen if the electricity were done. We could put the drawers in the island and fill them. We could put the microwave in its cabinet and the items that are destined for that cupboard. We could buy the plywood decking for the island and install it. We could work on the tile backsplash.

      So at four, I went to the paint store for the second coat of paint for the walls and ceiling, and Graham cut out the holes in the wall for the outlets (including the shiplap) to be moved.



      The two boxes with wires are the ones that don't work. The three boxes without wires are Graham's new holes. After the electrician installs the outlets, Graham will fill the other holes with drywall and mud.

      And then we got to painting. Graham had already put the first coat of this thick texture paint to attempt to match the paint on the rest of the walls. This paint was regular flat latex, and it was awesome.

      Graham took one side of the kitchen, and I took the other, and we got the entire first coat on in about an hour and a half, save for the parts that were still wet from Graham's texture coat that went on earlier today and the taped away chalkboard planes.



      It looks awesome.



      The parts of this wall with just primer are going to be covered in blue chalkboard paint. I also contacted my friend Melissa Borrell about one of her Fantasy Shades for the window, since it looks upon my neighbor's fence, and it's a west facing window at any rate. She e-mailed me back with some ideas, and I think it'll end up looking really cool.



      We also realized early on that the blue on this accent wall was likely going to clash with the blue of the chalkboard paint. And at any rate, the likelihood of matching the old paint for the extra part that was added on to the soffit (my brother informs me that is the architectural term) was going to be low. So we're going to repaint the old blue with the blue chalkboard paint to ensure that the clashing is minimal and to add some continuity between the rooms.

      Speaking of...



      I continue to take pictures and measurement of trim. We're coming closer and closer to actually needing to think about how we're going to do this, especially now that we have started to paint the ceiling. I'm pretty sure that we now know how we will make this work, but it will be tricky.

      And so the plan for the immediate future is:
      1. Pray that the electrician actually shows up tomorrow and finishes the power install.
      2. Graham will apply the second coat of white paint tomorrow.
      3. Friday night, I will do the chalkboard paint on the wall, which I'm nervous about because I've never had to paint perfectly straight lines before. Here's hoping my taping works.
      4. Friday night, install drawers in the island and start to fill them.
      5. Saturday, Graham to fix holes in wall where power outlets were misplaced.
      6. Saturday, install microwave cabinet.
      7. Saturday, install microwave and put other items in cupboard.
      8. Sunday, go to Home Depot and get plywood decking for island (cut at Home Depot)
      9. Sunday, install decking, paint and apply laminate.
      10. Sunday, (if time) start on backsplash.


      Oh yeah, the backsplash:



      This is what the backsplash will look like. It's going to have blue grout.

      After all of this is done, we'll get working on the various trim pieces (base boards, transition from tile to wood floors, the beam on the ceiling, then paint all with glossy latex). And then we'll scrub down the various floors, apply sealer on the grout.

      Then, we have to wait. We have to wait two weeks for the island countertop. And we have to wait who knows how long for the stove from IKEA. Then we have to install the toe kicks. And rearrange the living room and dining room.

      And then we're done!!

      We're at 3 and 1/2 weeks now, which is pretty damned fast, in my estimation. I think that we'll be done with most of it by this time next week, except for the two items

      Electrician woes

      crap
      When we last heard from our heroes, the kitchen floor was complete and a cabinet or two got constructed.

      Since then, there's been a flurry of activity.

      On Friday, ALL of the cabinets were constructed, leaving a ton of cardboard that required two trips to the recycling center.



      These cabinets were then put into place.



      And by the end of the day on Friday, everything was where it needed to be.




      A few things required adjustment. For example, the outlet for the microwave needed to be moved to the left about six inches. The power cord for the range hood needed to be moved to the left about 20 inches and up about eight inches.

      On Saturday, we got all the doors on their hinges and more or less adjusted. We couldn't put the drawers in the island, though, because the electrical outlets still needed to be installed.


      After 21 days living at my parents' house, I moved back into our house on Saturday night.

      And by Sunday, it was starting to look like a real kitchen. All we needed was the contractors to return for the final installs.

      I painted the wall in our bedroom with some primer to make it look less sheetrock-y.



      On Monday, Graham had everyone lined up. There were calls into the electrician, the plumbers, and the counter-top people. He also got a lot of the hardware in for the doors that we already had up. Of course, no one came. We stopped at IKEA for a template for the drawers to ensure that those handles would be even.

      Tuesday, the plumbers came. Sink: operational WITH water filter. Gas line: attached. Hot water heater: replaced. Joy, rapture, ecstasy. The plumbers only have to come back one more time to hook up the stove whenever it gets here. We started priming the kitchen walls and ceiling, avoiding the areas that the electrician would have to work. Of course, he didn't show up.

      Today, the counter-top people came to measure. We can now buy the plywood decking and install that (it will require one cut at Home Depot). Two weeks from now, our new counter-top will be here. Electrician, still a no-show.

      Tonight, Graham called the electrician and let him have it. Supposedly he will be at the house at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. I'm going to have to wait around the house, because Graham has jury duty. This may be for the best, because those two aren't exactly on speaking terms right now. I think it's just the nature of contractors that they don't show when they say they will; Graham thinks it's the height of unprofessionalism. Since I'm not the one who's been waiting around for three days, I'm guessing he's right. But I'm also the one that will have to deal with the fall out if there is any.

      The problem, of course, is that the electrician is in the way of completion. We can't do anything with the island without his work having been done. We can't put in the microwave and the items in that cabinet. We can't finish painting, because he has things to do on the walls that we're working on. The other items we need to do to finish up (cleaning the floors, installing the backsplash, installing trim) require the electrical work to have been finished. So we're at a standstill.

      Hopefully a temporary standstill, but a standstill nonetheless.

      Here's hoping that tomorrow's report will be better.

      In other news Celosa enjoys the hell out of being at her grandparents' house.
      pixie's stina

      About a month and a half after our wedding, we went to Austin, where our friend Pixie of Pixie Vision Productions was shooting a belly dance convention.  Pixie had taken pictures of us three years ago (and pictures of our dogs), and when those photos came out, we were amazed at how good we looked.  My avatar picture here and other venues is from that set.  When we saw her travel schedule was bringing her through Texas, we immediately booked her for our "engagement shoot" even though the photographs were going to be taken after the wedding.

      This time, I felt a lot more comfortable in front of the camera than I did the first time.  We brought music to listen to, which DEFINITELY helped me feel more comfortable, and I was better at following direction.  Pixie moves FAST.  There were well over 300 photos taken in the hour that we worked with her AND I had four outfit changes (though photos from two of the outfits didn't make the final cut).  The blue dress I'm wearing was the dress that I wore to dance in for my wedding reception   Graham was scheduled to have surgery a few days after the shoot, so he wasn't feeling his best.  He asked me to pose more than him, so that's why there are more shots of me than him. Also, the other outfit  he brought with him was too white, so he chose to wear this soccer jersey instead.  I think it looks awesome. .

      The hardest part, of course, was picking the 15 photos from the 300 plus proofs to be edited for the final product.  We agonized for weeks over it, and eventually I couldn't make up my mind over three photos, so I included them all and paid for additional editing.  I do not regret that in the slightest.

      And then, there's Celosa.  She was just a baby when she met Pixie three years ago, and they fell head over heels in love with each other. So when we scheduled the shoot, OF COURSE Celosa was going to be in the pictures. She's really, really hard to photograph well, but Pixie did a great job of getting some amazing shots.

      Pixie Vision Productions

      Pixie Vision Productions

      Pixie Vision Productions

      Pixie Vision Productions

      Pixie Vision Productions

      Pixie Vision Productions

      Pixie Vision Productions

      The whole set of photos (28 in all, with different versions of the ones above and individual shots of both of us and our puppy dog)  is here.

      Bonus of me looking HOT.  I do love Pixie a lot:

      Pixie Vision Productions

      'stina

      'stina is, surprisingly enough, a lawyer from Houston, Texas who rambles about quite a number of things.

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