Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

News Round-up

Credit to MissPres for the title here--I love their weekly news and blog round-ups. It has been an interesting week, with everything and not much happening, so that seemed like a good way to go on getting a new post up.

First up, a new teacher arrived in Diomede, Alaska--an island in the Bering Strait--and from which, you really can see Russia. See the video of her fascinating voyage via crab boat here. I am impressed with this young woman and her commitment to teach in an isolated post. I "met" her through my St. Paul, Alaska blog and after having spent time out on that remote and isolated island, I imagine she will have quite the adventures over the coming year.

The fall semester began Monday, and though it was incredibly busy, it was a smooth week as far as most things go. I have a great bunch of students--about half of whom I did not know prior to the class, and others whom I have taught before. Classes are larger than usual and that will be a challenge in the semester. I spent one entire day working on the revision of a manuscript, and with one more devoted day, can have it ready for the final edit. Also in the first week, I had the opportunity to participate in a focus group for our school, attend a workshop on excellence in teaching, and attend the longest faculty meeting of my academic career.

The most difficult thing so far has been the trek all the way across campus to my classroom, and then all the way across to the other side for the second classroom. Yesterday as I returned--it takes a full 15 minutes of laborious walking with the cane, so I am spending a hour just walking to and from my two classes--I came up the handicapped access due to pulling my book cart. I have to prop the cane on my leg and open the door with my left hand. The automatic door swung out and right across the top of my left foot, pinning it to the concrete. I could not move my foot or the door. I was standing there--in pain, I might add :)--wondering how in the world I was going to manage to get out of this predicament. Topped off, the ramp is at the back door, so there is no one there to see me and help out. I finally managed to get the door to move forward enough to scoot my foot back, and vowed revenge. Needless to say, I have a large bruise on the top of my foot this morning.

The good news is it has cooled off a bit here early in the mornings and late evening, and it has actually been possible to sit outside and enjoy watching the birds and the cats. The two kitties have become friends and now eat out of the same bowls and hang out on the same side of the yard. Tux (the black and white kitty) now knows that even though Libby is out in her kennel, barking, that she can't go through the fence. Tux will even sneak up to the crack at the corner of the fence and look at Libby, which of course, drives Libby nuts. The yellow cat (who has yet to have a name fit) is still uncertain, and it will make a mad rush to the gap in the fence to hide in the kudzu any time one of the dogs barks from inside the house or Libby from her kennel. They are less leery of me now, and will sit at the end of the sidewalk when I am outside. Tux will even stay on the bench on the front porch while I fill the food dish, but the second I walk away, he/she makes a run for the yard, just in case.

Finally, yesterday was Randy's birthday. We postponed the celebration until today although we did manage to watch a movie last night while eating take out from Chik Fil A. We don't eat out on Friday nights when school is in session, unless we drive to Water Valley. He is off to buy his present this morning, and then we will work on putting up the walls for the tub surround. Just another glamorous day in the life.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ta Da! Another small step...

We spent the day in Memphis yesterday, picking out the ceramic tile for the tub surround. It's called Cedar Slate, and is similar to the floor tile. Once we had the tile selected, we searched for paint. It is supposed to be Glazed Pears, though on the wall it looks more like white to us. It had a slightly yellowish hue on the chip--like a pear that has been baked with a brown sugar glaze. So much for the consistency of the chip and/or the computer mixing of the paint hues.
The cabinet and sink vessel are installed, along with the spiffy "City Loft" faucet. Now I can move on to finishing the walls and floor while we wait for the Kerdi system to arrive this week. Tiling starts next weekend...at least, I hope it does.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rain, finally

After days of humidity so high you could feel moisture dripping out of the air, the rains finally arrived last evening. It cooled things down and allowed me to sit on the porch for a while, watching the rain fall, hearing it plinking against the metal tub covering my chimenea. It's a sound that reminds me of my childhood and the "sleeping porch" with its tin top--a sound that lulls you into a peaceful bliss.

I hear it again this morning, outside my window as the rain splats against the ledge outside Libby's pet door. Coupled with the semi-darkness of the room, it makes me just want to crawl back into bed for a while, and I am tempted--right after I finish this wonderful breakfast. My friend gave me a handful of fresh tomatoes from her garden. Imagine, a tomato that smells like a tomato, and tastes like a tomato. Sliced and seasoned with freshly ground sea salt, it's the perfect accompaniment to eggs and wheat toast.

There is only one tomato left now, and I shall savor it like this day--the last day I have left before officially beginning the new semester tomorrow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all..."

I have got to stop saying "if nothing else goes wrong" because, of course it will. It started off well, except for the part about waking at 4:30 this morning unable to return to sleep for thinking about the bathroom. I did get the primer coat on the wall and the floor and was on my way to work when I got side-tracked with having lunch with J.
Back home from that, I tiled the part of the floor for the sink and put shiny new chrome flanges down. Oops--they extended beyond the feet of the sink cabinet, and the ones on the pipes had to come out. Now, frankly, I am starting to wonder why NOTHING in this house is standard. Studs are supposed to be a standard width apart in walls--not here. There might be 4 of them within 6 inches here. I guess the good news is that is gives lots of support, and more areas in which one could hang a picture or nail baseboard. But why is the water pipe 2 inches from the drain on one side, and 8 inches on the other? What were these people thinking?

After all of this, J and I decided to change the paint color for the walls in the bathroom, which meant slow down on installing the sink. That will give me more time to figure out how to cover the tile around the pipes, since the flange will not now fit.
So, my lovely new sink is still in the living room for the moment. Meanwhile, J prepared dinner tonight.
We don't know what it was called, but it was quite unique and delicious, and contained my favorite butternut squash, carrots, and some interesting spices including oregano from the herb garden. As usual, though, his propensity for dishes with cream based sauces sabotaged me again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Partial accomplishment!

Sink and partial tile in our bathroom. That is as much as I will do in here until we finish the hall bath. Tiling the small section, taping and bedding the wall, and putting a primer coat of paint on the wall behind the sink took all morning. Because the new sink is smaller than the old one, I also have to extend the baseboard. I guess Will figured since it did not show, it did not matter if it went all the way to the wall. Either that, or like most other things in here, he cut too short anyway and just nailed it up regardless.

I had to replace the bottom 8 inches of sheetrock on one wall in the hall bath, due to the earlier water damage from when we had to rebuild our shower. While the sink was out, it made sense to texture the back wall. The caulking is in place on the floor and it will all dry overnight. In the morning, I will paint the primer coat on the section of floor I can tile for the moment, and primer the back wall. In the afternoon, I will get the tile installed and then we will be ready to put the new sink in place. Slow going, but at least some accomplishments to celebrate.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Back to the bathroom: Enter laughing

Well, of course he did--something else not done correctly to begin with. Even I know you cannot put ceramic tile with mortar on a fiberboard floor without a moisture barrier. But of course, that is the reason we have had to rebuild everything in the bathrooms anyway--his failure to put down moisture barriers and a shower pan/liner when he shoddily built the shower in the first place. So, once we got to the repair by the drain and the tile had to come up, along came the floor with it. We actually kind of expected that, so were not surprised. It primarily just crumbled.

The option for now was replace the part of the floor necessary to put the sink in and get the vinyl tile down on that part of the floor and wait on the rest of it, since it will necessitate replacing the flooring in all of it, along with taking out the toilet. We don't want to do that until we are ready to replace the toilet and do all the tile. After Randy got the new wood floor in place, I painted it with the primer coat needed before applying the vinyl tile.
Next up was to put this side of the wall in. I will tape and bed it tomorrow (of course, another all day job), put the primer coat on the wall, and then put the tile down on this section.
Libby said thanks for cleaning out her kennel. After that hot and unpleasant task, I went down to the road to cut down 2 pine saplings and a cedar tree that have been beginning to block our view of the highway for the past several weeks. Cars come around the curve far faster than the speed limit anyway, and one needs the best possible view to avoid a collision. It was 97, but felt far hotter than that.

Second shower of the day and I am ready for take-out and to kick back with a movie. After all, tomorrow will be busy enough, and then it's back to work on Monday. Where did the summer go?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mississippi in August and no electricity

There I was, minding my own bees-wax, sweeping up Rex's hair from the floor. Ka-thunk! Silence...and darkness. There are no windows in our kitchen other than the one in the door to the screened porch, so lack of light is fairly significant in there. Now usually when that happens, it is just a short glitch (welcome to rural Mississippi) and the electricity comes back on anywhere from in a few seconds to a few minutes. It's 103 here today, so I was hoping it was that few seconds thing today. It wasn't.

I called the electric company that services our area; I understood fairly quickly why Randy said, "Good luck with that" when I told him it was out. First, a recorded voice, spinning off a list of numbers and options. Not being familiar with the system, I selected "report an outage" naively assuming a person would come on and I would be able to have a conversation. I don't know why that always surprises me these days, but I confess to being unprepared, and no, I do not have the telephone number of our service account, nor the account number. Hang up and redial. Wait for the entire list of options. Oh, there it is: to speak to a representative, dial 0 or stay on the line.

She confirmed that it was an outage in the area as they were changing out a battery and it would be back on in just a few minutes. "While I have you on the line, we called several weeks ago to report kudzu on our transformer. Do you know when they might be getting out here--it's getting pretty bad."

This is my version of "pretty bad." Mississippians already know that kudzu can grow several inches in a day. (When we first moved here and our computers were in the room that is J's now--with a view of the transformer--we used to make bets on how far up the pole it would go overnight--you could visually see the difference from one day to the next.)

She pulled up the work order and said, "It doesn't say when they will get to it, but we do have the order here."

"Well, I just want to let you know that it is pretty bad and it is all over the transformer."

"Sometimes he waits until he has a number of them in the same area and then does them all at once. However, if it gets real bad before he gets out there, call back."

Hmmmm......what is your definition of real bad, because that's where I am with it right now.

"If your lights start flickering on and off, call back."

Okay, I can do that, but what about if that happens in the middle of the night, or on a weekend? What about if it happens when it is 107? How long will it take him to get to it then? "I think it is already really bad; the kudzu is totally all over the transformer and wires, and you know, it grows really fast."

Yes, of course she knows. Everyone in Mississippi knows that. Give it an inch and it will wrap around your arm and rip the hoe out of your hand as you are trying to chop its little tendrils off. From what I can tell so far, there is no peaceful co-existence with this stuff. It wins or you do. Currently, the score here is Kudzu: 8,392; Suzassippi: 0.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Yeah, I have a tub

I can't use it, but at least it is finally in the bathroom. Yes, another all-day effort.
Randy got the water pipes and studs back in, but the wall just had to wait. Tomorrow is another day.

Back to the Bathroom Remodel

I spent Friday cutting out the wall between the dining room and the hall bathroom. Rand decided that was the only way to get the tub in (all that beautiful plumbing is going to have to come out, and the studs down temporarily while we walk the tub in through the wall opening) since we cannot find a plumber who wants the job. (That is another story: We have had little success in finding workers to assist with the endless repair of the shoddy work done on this house in the beginning. While we knew there were cosmetic issues--like the fact that Will liked to eyeball it instead of measure, and then just fill in the gap with a pound of caulk--the inspection indicated everything else was sound. Every repair job uncovers something else he did not quite know how to do, and that necessitates an unexpected delay to take care of before we can get to whatever we were doing in the first place.) But I digress. It is easy to do when I see the developments he has gone on to build all over this town, knowing the quality of work he did here. It is a primary example of why counties should have building codes and safety inspections.
We had to make a small opening (only required taking out a tiny portion of the wall) between the master bath and the hall bath. As the tub is walked through, someone has to be able to step back due to the way the tub has to be placed. This, of course, also necessitated taking out the sink. That resulted in finding another one of those unexpected opportunities to repair something else. Why put a hole in the sub floor the size of the drain pipe when you can make it 6 times as large as is needed, and allow a cow to walk through if it wanted? It will require putting a small section of sub flooring in place before we install the new sink, but it looks to be relatively simple (I've said that before and been wrong). It also provided the opportunity for me to go ahead and rip off the wall paper that has annoyed me for 7 years. It was poorly applied in the beginning, not to mention ugly. It was one of those cosmetic things that I intended to get around to, but somehow never did. I am around to it now.

Randy finished the plug for the whirlpool at a bit after 6, and we decided plumbing and moving in the tub could wait until today. We were exhausted and the dogs were hungry. Randy and J moved the tub from his room into the now empty dining room so it will be in place and ready to take in shortly. Then he looked at me and asked, "How is it that we can stretch a 2-hour job into 3 days?" I think because we underestimate how long it might take to begin with, and then, we don't figure in all the unexpected things we will encounter.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

J's in a cooking mood

J made chicken and mushroom tetrazzini for dinner last night. He has apparently been in a cooking mood while we were gone, and has tried a variety of new recipes, including this one.
It was delicious; I have nothing with which to compare it, never having eaten chicken tetrazzini in my life, but I really enjoyed it--particularly the not having had to cook it part. I tried not to think of the pint of cream and the pound of parmesan in it and just savor the flavor. I had eaten healthily all day long to that point.

He related a number of lessons he had learned from his cooking adventures of the week, and rattled off the list of things he would never again do:
  1. Prepare garlic from the bulb,
  2. Stuff anything (he made cannelloni),
  3. Grate parmesan cheese.
He also added a new food item to his prep repertoire and said he had enjoyed sauteing spinach, however. I advised him that one can buy pre-grated parmesan, and pre-chopped garlic, although the only pre-stuffing is that which comes in a box in the frozen food section.

He diligently chopped mushrooms and chicken thighs, grated parmesan, and after sauteing his chicken and mushrooms in olive oil and adding the white wine, reduced the stock and then added his cream and parmesan. He decided that although it took a lot of work the first time, he thought this was a dish that once you have prepared a few times, would go much faster.

I hope he will be in a cooking mood again tonight as well, although he does tend toward those dishes that are rich and creamy and slightly on the Italian side.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Welcome to Dalhart, Texas: Somewhere I never imagined I would go

Kate said it has not been much of a fun vacation. Here is she is asking "are we there yet?" She woke up this morning with her face swollen and her left eye swollen shut. Another trip to the vet. A shot of steroid and benadryl, and then we packed to come home. As Tommy Lee Jones used to say, "I'm not having any fun here. You know how I get when I'm not having any fun."
We stopped for a quick photo of Blue Mesa Point Lake, on the Gunnison river. Randy said he thought he needed at least a couple of photographs of Colorado before we left.

Looking back through the Gunnison National Forest.
At one point, at the Great Divide, traffic was down to one lane. I have never seen as many motorcycles in one place as we saw in the short stretch of Colorado we were in for 2 days.
Looking out at the Great Divide from Monarch Crest.
Mining: it's what's for dinner.
Kate needed a pit stop on the Arkansas River.
She was quite enthralled with the rafters coming down the river and stood intently watching them, wagging her tail.

Once we hit Pueblo (we took the most direct route toward home) it was fast driving on the Interstate. Pueblo was actually quite beautiful, surrounded by mountains. Somehow, we had been given the impression that it was a flat, ugly desert town and we nixed it from our list of possibles 7 years ago before the great migration to Mississippi. Randy looked at me and said (I paraphrase) "you messed up, didn't you?" We would have been an easy day's drive from some of the most beautiful Colorado country that we love.

We made a pit stop in Walzenburg and I opted to drive through town rather than skirt it on the Interstate. I love the sound of the name of the courthouse: Huerfano County.
Also in Walzenburg, another Fox theater. It, like the rest of the historic buildings, will have to wait for me to find out about their history and post an addendum.
Last pit stop before our destination, we spotted the Hotel Ecklund. I imagine it has a fascinating history just waiting for me as well. I missed the turn for the street, and thought I was going down a one way street the block before. It turned out to be an alley, and as I laughed and said the sheriff would probably stop us (what with Mississippi tags and driving down an alley) and we would get arrested in Clayton, New Mexico, we pulled out of the alley...right onto the police station where the officer was standing by his car.
Across the border and into Texas at last, it was miles of typical Panhandle: fields of feed (sudan? maize?) and cattle feeders. I spent the last few miles driving into Dalhart (population 7 thousand and some few hundred) thinking about the great diversity of this country. It is not only the people who are diverse, but the land itself. I thought of how there is beauty in all things, if one is looking for it. I do confess, today was a trying time in my philosophy that it is the trail that matters. Today, I do confess, I only wanted the destination. The trip had been a disappointment in many ways, though, there were also wonderful moments and unexpected delights, along with the stress and the trauma.

Randy had made us a reservation after we left Montrose, and we settled on Dalhart as it was a bit closer than our original plan to make it to Amarillo tonight. As we pulled into the Best Western Nursanickel, I cracked up--sometimes, you just have to try to see the humor in a situation. As Randy checked in, I noted that if we wanted to hang out in Dalhart, I could celebrate my 60th birthday Friday by going to the XIT rodeo and reunion. Surely everyone knows about the famous XIT ranch in the panhandle?

The good old working boys upstairs were sitting outside their door, drinking beer and winding down. Thankfully, the boss man came out shortly and told them to hit the sack, so it has quieted down enough for sleeping. Kate and Randy are already sacked out, and I am headed that way.

Tomorrow is a 14 hour drive back to Mississippi. Just for one day of this trip, I would be pleased if nothing unusual happened.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Not a Road Trip Day

Randy took this iPhone photo of the giant weeping willow out behind our room this morning at sunrise, when he was out with Kate. That is the extent of the picture taking for today. Kate was sick when she woke up and by 8 we were worried enough to take her to the doggie doc. The front desk clerk gave us information (lots of pets stay here). Though she is much better and seems to be on the mend, it was pretty scary. She could not even get in the truck and Randy had to pick her up.

She has a mild case of pancreatitis, probably caused by eating something unfamiliar. She was supposed to rest today, and though she was feeling better by mid-afternoon, we just hung out in the room all day, reading, napping, and watching Kate sleep. She is on a chicken and nonfat yogurt diet for the next few days, encourage water, and keep the activity minimal. The doctor gave her a shot of something, and some antibiotics for the next few days. I don't know how much impact--if any--it will have on our length of stay or later plans.

Bobbie and Jim went on over to Ouray for the day and said they enjoyed their first trip to "Switzerland of America."

Meanwhile, I went to pick up some lunch and bring it back to our room. At noon on Sunday in Montrose--probably like most places--everything was crowded. I drove way out to Heidi's Brooklyn Deli. I have to say the young woman waiting on me was not all that enthused to be at work, and had no trouble letting me know that. I'm not sure who she was mad at, but it must have been someone that looked like me. "No onions, no tomatoes, just lettuce on the club sandwich." Randy hates tomatoes and onions. "Two cookies." I tipped her (for doing her regular job of making my sandwich) hoping it would improve her outlook on the rest of the day. Back in the room and unwrapping the sandwich, the smell of onions was overpowering. Not only was there no lettuce, there must have been EXTRA onions on that sucker. No cookies. The sign in the deli had said, "Born in Brooklyn. Raised in Colorado." Maybe that was the problem.