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.
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.
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( Non-FictionCollapse )
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.
The 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.
After 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.
And 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. Still, 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).
It 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.
And 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.
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: decaffein
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.
We 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.
It 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.
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.
Our 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.
After 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.
We 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. Graham 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, 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.
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.
Again, 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
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 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.
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:
- a day or more passes
- a few hours pass
- about a week passes
- implantation begins
- a week passes
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Pray that the electrician actually shows up tomorrow and finishes the power install.
- Graham will apply the second coat of white paint tomorrow.
- 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.
- Friday night, install drawers in the island and start to fill them.
- Saturday, Graham to fix holes in wall where power outlets were misplaced.
- Saturday, install microwave cabinet.
- Saturday, install microwave and put other items in cupboard.
- Sunday, go to Home Depot and get plywood decking for island (cut at Home Depot)
- Sunday, install decking, paint and apply laminate.
- 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
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.
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.
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:
Over the weekend, we took a break. There wasn't anything we could do until the floors were finished, and it seemed like we needed a bit of a respite from the non-stop kitchen-ing.
So we focused on Celosa instead.
We got a message from her breeder on Sunday that she had been asked to be on a morning TV program in anticipation of the dog show this weekend. It was one of those "breeds you don't ordinarily see that will be at the dog show" type of segments. Our breeder didn't really have time, as she's showing dogs this weekend and they have priority. But Celosa is a fantastic representation of the breed AND she's friendly, and we didn't really have to do anything other than show up at the station around the corner from our house and look pretty. Celosa naturally looks pretty. We said of course! Celosa is a born star.
So on Tuesday, we went over to the dog show site (Reliant) to meet with the breeder and to get a quick haircut. Celosa loved it, and she looked great. She was more or less well behaved on the grooming table, and she got a bit more of a professional polish than she's used to. We also got the skinny on the other pulik in Houston AND we got wristbands that get us into the dog show all weekend.
After some e-mails back and forth with the person in charge of the TV segment, we were ready to go! And this morning, we were on TV: (I think we start around the 4:30 mark.)
She was great! She made all sorts of friends at the TV studio, and she did a fantastic job of projecting her wonderful little personality. I only wish I'd worn a different color pair of pants so we didn't blend in together as much as we did at some points. But Celosa rocked.
In kitchen news, David came back to town yesterday and finished tiling the floors:
They look AMAZING. And he did an even better job once you realize that the tiles were slightly different in width and size, so he had to press down harder on some than others, and he had to sort of mess with them a little to get the points to line up. Today they were grouted, and now, we can move on to further making our kitchen look like a real kitchen instead of an empty box.
At around 8:00, the IKEA delivery showed up with the rest of our kitchen.
The delivery guys said that it was the first delivery in three years where EVERYTHING showed up in one shipment. Even the corner cabinet that we thought we'd have to come back for later was included. AND it looks like our range will come in two weeks from now rather than six weeks.
Last night, Graham and I started assembling a few cabinets.
We stopped after doing two because we realized we had no where to put them. Once the kitchen was grouted, they could go in there, but we were quickly running out of room in the non-kitchen parts of the house. I think that they've all been assembled by now, and tomorrow will be cabinet installation! How very exciting.
Tomorrow also, Celosa and I are going to Reliant Center with my mom for the "meet the breed" part of the dog show. Celosa has been deputized by the puli people because she's unusually friendly (a lot of pulik could care less about anyone they aren't related to), and she doesn't have any other duties.
Over the weekend, I think Graham and I will be finishing up cabinet installation (putting on doors and hardware), and we will begin painting.
One of the major DIY projects we have to take on is the ceiling. We've taken pictures of the existing trim, and we will have to attempt to match it when building the final beam that makes the transition from the dining room to the kitchen.
We think we've seen everything we need at Home Depot, but it's now going to be a question of actually executing.
I'm hopeful that we can get the electrician and plumbers back out on Monday, and we can get the countertop measurements done more or less then as well. If the counters and the oven come in around the same time, we'll have done the entire kitchen in under a month.
Graham picked me up at lunch for another trip to Home Depot, this time for more drywall mud another two sheets of cement board for the floor. While we were there, he told me that David brought a helper, and together they finished up the first round of mudding on the walls and ceilings and were starting to get the cement board down on the floor. AND by the end of the day,...
...half of the tiling is done!! It was less than ideal when yet another rainstorm hit (in the past week, the weather station near my house has logged 5.03 inches of rain), because the equipment they'd been using to cut the cement board and tile had to be moved from the outside to the inside, increasing the dust level in the house by another thousandfold. But progress!
The kitchen looks so big without the appliances in it. And the blue and white looks absolutely perfect. David made them very close in spacing, so grouting is going to be very simple (and fairly easy to maintain).
After inspecting the amazing floors this morning, Graham and I made the trek to IKEA that has been the center of this project for about two years. I started the design process for the kitchen at least two years ago, if not more. I changed layouts. I changed doors. I changed cabinet features. I got to know the online kitchen design program backwards and forwards. Mine was the third IKEA kitchen that I'd designed, and it was the one I spent the most time on.
We needed to get to $4500 in kitchen purchases from certain lines to get a 20% discount. So our first mission was to ensure that what we had in our cart qualified for the discount. After eliminating two shelves because they didn't count, but adding a cabinet covering to make the island look seamless, we were short $151.22. We spent an hour going through the various drawer accessories and adding them to our cart, cursing IKEA's reasonable prices as we went. Finally, an in-sink colander got us to $4507. We will have an awesomely organized kitchen.
It took about another hour and a half for the floor staff to go through and process the order, so we wandered around, pausing at one of those mock apartments to hang out. We noticed more IKEA shoppers carrying umbrellas, so we figured it started raining again.
When we got back to check on the status, it turned out that the hardware we selected had been discontinued, and we had to pick out another line. It also turned out that two items we wanted were not in stock: the stove and the corner base cabinet. The stove was not a great surprise, as we'd heard that it wasn't normally kept in stock last week when we were doing recon. The corner cabinet gave us a bit of a start, as it's sort of what we were intending on building the kitchen around, since it has the most pieces attached to it. Turns out that the corner cabinet should be in by late next week, which is around the time we were planning on installing the kitchen. *phew* The stove, on the other hand, has about a six week wait. This does not make Graham happy, but there's not much we could do about it.
Still, we could get the 20% off of everything else we bought, AND the 20% will apply to the stove and cabinet we weren't able to get today. And we ended up paying very little for our kitchen, thanks to the very generous gift cards our friends and family gave us for our wedding.
The kitchen staff liked our floor and overall design concept, and they asked for pictures when we come back for the other things. I think Graham has a calendar item set in his phone now to check weekly if the stove has come in.
We arranged for the delivery of our new kitchen for next Wednesday. And David should be back on Tuesday to finish up the floors and walls. I imagine a good hunk of the cabinets will be up by the end of the week!! How terribly exciting!
Another trip to Home Depot (more thin set mortar for the tiling), and we're done for the weekend. No kitchen stuff tomorrow. Back to the grind on Monday, whenin we will attempt to put up the drywall in our bedroom without David.
And yesterday, the wall went away.
David came back yesterday to work on the house, and lots has been done. Home Depot made a delivery of all sorts of materials, though Graham had to make two Home Depot runs during the day (once on his own for another Bagster, another time with me for some drywall mud that somehow didn't make the order we'd placed.) But David was busy. First, obviously, the wall came down. So did the rest of the sheetrock. Including a ton from the ceiling.
Also, the various holes in the middle retaining wall made by the plumbers the day before were made to go away using the shiplap that I'd torn down. Also, the doorway to the bedroom was gone. I had a mini freakout about this, since I'd intended to use that shiplap for something else, but I understood that making the house as structurally sound as possible was more important than my way-down-the-line home decor projects. Plus, I have another wall I intend to put a hole in. I can get shiplap from there.
Our biggest challenge as of yesterday was the box hiding the slope of the roof that exists in the dining room but doesn't in the kitchen. It's the real marker of a transition between the two rooms.
Also, note in the second picture above that once upon a time, there was wall paper on the ceiling. It looks like it was a red floral print. Huh. Who knew?
All in all, yesterday was an insanely productive day, especially considering that David did it all by himself.
David and Graham got all of the drywall (except on the other side of the now-gone doorway in our bedroom) up, and they started the taping and mudding. The transition between the two rooms is going to be pretty seamless, and it is starting to look like a real room now.
David was able to cap the box in the dining room, and I think that we will replicate one of the beams in the living and dining room to mark the ceiling transition from dining room to kitchen. (If you scroll up to the first picture, you might be able to see the beam better. They are every four feet or so from the front door to the end of the dining room. You can see them really well in this picture.) This will be balanced on the floor by the transition from hardwood to tile. We're still trying to decide whether we will want to put ceiling tiles up--the old fashioned pressed tin type--or if we just want to paint it.
At any rate, things are really progressing now. I think that it'll probably take about a half-day to finish the drywall tomorrow, and I think that the cement board for the floor will go down tomorrow. Over the weekend, we'll sand the walls to get them finally ready for painting. We'll paint the back wall and the retaining wall white, and the exterior wall will have a blue chalkboard paint.
The plumbing got moved and the electrical rough ins are done! I got most of the last board of shiplap off! I injured my hand prying off some of the shiplap between the old door frame going into the kitchen and the exterior wall!
First, the plumbing and electrical:
The plumbers apparently had a rough time of it, but they were able to tear out a section of shiplap in the middle wall, take out the old pipes, and move them inside the wall. They will come back later to install the gas line and attach it to the stove, and attach the sink to the new plumbing there. Apparently we could stand to get a new line from the city water, but we can wait a little on that.
The electrician moved a light switch from the old wall to the exterior wall. He also moved two outlets from the old wall to the floor for the island. And he added two outlets for the microwave and the vent hood. Plus moved another outlet, and added a 220 outlet for the stove.
AND he replaced our ancient panel:
When I got home, he was still working on it. And I got changed to start pounding on the last piece of shiplap that I knew that I could get off. I got all of the nails out except the ends.
All I had to do to get it off was move a bit of wood from the old door frame. I was using a prybar, and I got a whole hunk off.
But on one board I pulled too hard, and my hand flew back straight into a piece of aluminum that used to be our backsplash. We'd been using it as an industrial dustbin.
Sliced my knuckle open.
I bled all over the house and all over Graham, who bandaged me up and declared me to not need stitches. He pulled me off work for the night AND he told me that now that I've injured myself, I'm not allowed to work on the house for the whole rest of the project without gloves. It's apparently a rule in the manual labor industry (in which he has much more experience than I do). I was feeling a little lightheaded, and so I agreed that maybe for now I should stop.
David got here this morning, and he got the rest of the wall down. Shiplap and 2x4s are gone. He also boarded up the old doorway between the kitchen and the bedroom with some of the shiplap, so the cabinets have something to hang on. And he's torn out a lot of the ceiling drywall because there are some loose boards up there. I suspect our house is even more tank-like than it was before.
Home Depot delivered drywall, screws, thinset mortar and cement board to the house this morning, and Graham and I made a trip at lunch for some grout and drywall mud. There's a new Bagster in the back yard for the rest of the wall and other assorted building materials.
Drywall goes up tomorrow! And I think tiling begins the day after.
And Saturday, I think, is our major IKEA buy.
So we continue to live under less than neat and tidy conditions.
We were awakened by David, who had an electrician lined up to see the house. We hauled our asses out of my parents' bed and tore over to the house to meet Raul, the electrician. His quote was about a third of the other quote. He'd be moving all the wires and replacing the panel. And? He could start tomorrow, Sunday. Holy fuck! Graham and I were in a bit of shock over that, but we were more than happy to hire him on the spot. Graham called the other electrician who was supposed to show up on Monday for a bid to cancel that appointment.
Graham had worked on Friday night and he woke up early Saturday morning, so I made him go back to my parents' house for a nap while I worked a little more at the house.
I pulled off one more layer of shiplap, and then I went to the task of arranging all the shiplap we had already taken off. It took me about an hour to pull out all the nails, and then I organized all the pieces in to like sizes and tetrised them into our tool shed.
I also went to the backyard and took the opportunity to cut some major branches off of some overgrown trees and bushes and hauled them to the bagster sitting in our driveway. We could barely walk out of our back deck thanks to an over eager loropetalum, and the vitex was pretty much depriving my rosebed of sunlight. A casual passer by would think that it was yard work rather than house work that was the impetus for buying the bagster. I arranged for it to be picked up on Monday.
I went back to Graham, took a shower and had a nap until it was time for him to go to work. The puppies were overjoyed to see me.
On Sunday, the electrician was supposed to be there by ten thirty, so we hauled ourselves out of bed again and went over to the house. I occupied myself by getting rid of the trim around the doorway in our bedroom. And I pulled away all of the remaining wood on the floor where the wall used to be, uncovering the original hardwoods of the house.
We had a three second discussion about uncovering the rest of the hardwoods, when sanity prevailed and we realized that the original tile idea would be better. I cleaned a bit of the area, too, because I knew that the plumbers and electricians would want room to work. I stacked all the trim away, in case we needed it later. And I swept like a madwoman.
By noon, it was raining pretty hard, and the electrician couldn't get what needed to be done in the rain, so he rescheduled for the next day.
So we took off for IKEA to get some recon regarding the countertops, any impending supply issues with the cabinets, and to look at shelving for over the refrigerator. All seemed well, especially since the sale is going on now, and we're in the wonderfully awkward position of having to find $200 more to spend at IKEA on our kitchen so we can save 20% rather than 10% (we're in the window where spending more actually saves us more). I have confidence that we can do this.
And on to Home Depot! We decided to buy a hot water heater. I have delayed this purchase ten years, and since the plumbers have to disconnect it anyhow, we figured it was a good time to replace it. We had a Home Depot gift card from the wedding that we used for part of it, and Graham nearly killed me by vandalizing some inventory notes in the patio door section.
We grabbed some lunch at The Haymerchant and headed back to the pooches. My parents got back from California a few hours later, and they wanted all of the updates. We decided that Graham would stay at the house because he had contractors to deal with the next morning, but I'd stay at my parents' place with Celosa.
Frustration. The plumbers were supposed to be there first thing, but didn't show early. When Graham called, they were supposed to be there "after lunch". But then it started pouring rain, and their appointment was cancelled. Graham was unpleased.
The electrician was supposed to be there at around one. But again with the rain, cancelling.
The only real success of the day was that the Bagster was picked up and our driveway is navigable again.
We went to geek night last night, and then parted.
Much success! I don't know much of the details, since I was only on the phone. But!
Plumbing: Pipes moved! Apparently this was quite a challenge and involved a lot of going to the attic and under the house and pulling apart the one unmolested wall in the kitchen.
Electrical: Rough in done! Apparently there are all sorts of new connections and wires and things running all over our kitchen, and we're terribly excited about all of it. As I type, the electrician is putting in the new panel.
Drywall and tile: Materials ordered! Home Depot will be delivering 14 sheets of drywall, 10 sheets of mortar board, assorted screws, thin set, and liquid glue in the morning. Should be moving forward tomorrow!
I'm about to take off to check out the progress today. I look forward to seeing how it's going. Tomorrow: The return of David, and drywall goes up.
Also, we got our first "holy fuck!" bid today. The electrician bid came back at twice as much as we had anticipated the very top to be. Fortunately, another electrician who came recommended by a friend is coming by on Monday to take a look, and if that doesn't work, David has an electrician friend here in Houston who he says could probably do the job for about a quarter of what the bid was. David of course could do it for about a tenth of the bid, but he's not a certified electrician (though I have no doubts whatsoever that he'd be well above code) and we want this to be as above the books as possible, he's not going to make the cut.
The plumbers are coming back on Monday to move the pipes. They told Graham yesterday that it'd be a little more than anticipated, now that they've seen the extent of the job and that they have to thread the pipes through the shiplap retaining wall. "How much more?" "$200 more." I heart our plumbers.
This weekend, we are going to finish taking down the shiplap from the main wall. I have two more layers to go and that part is finished. Then I'll move it over to the tool shed for safe keeping until we have a project for it. We will also remove as much of the sheetrock as we think is going to be needed to be gone for the renovation. Maybe we'll be able to get the other door frame out too.
Our other task for the weekend is to determine whether or not to replace the hot water heater while we're at it. I'm sort of inclined to given that they're messing with those pipes already, I was supposed to replace it ten years ago when I bought the house, and we've saved a lot of money already on this project. Plus, sometimes I hear rattling in the attic when I turn the water on. If so, we need to buy the hot water heater this weekend so they can install it on Monday when they do the rest of the plumbing job.
Monday and Tuesday are supposedly the rough-ins on the plumbing and electrical (assuming that one of the two people coming in on Monday can move that quickly on electrical) and on Wednesday, David is coming back for the drywall and tiling. We think we have a pretty straight forward drywall job, and the tiling will just be the whole room, which is pretty square and won't require too many strange cuts, aside from two holes near the island for electrical outlets.
Next week, I'll need to buy a bunch of drywall, some insulation sheets, tape, drywall mud, drywall screws, backerboard for the tile, mortar, grout, sealers, etc. Right now, I'm estimating about $700 at Home Depot, but who knows what random unexpected purchases I'll be making in addition to what I'm expecting.
Sometime the week after, we'll make the IKEA buy, grateful that their Kitchen Event sale started on Wednesday and will go until mid-August. And the installation of cabinets will begin! After that, we have to call the countertop people to install that, and while we wait for that installation, Graham and I will work on the backsplash.
Then paint, touch ups and finish work, and we can move back into the kitchen! I'm guessing it will be five weeks total, though we're hoping for four. Week one has been EXTREMELY productive, even with the holiday that sort of screwed us contractor-wise in the middle.