Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mid-week kitteh

There's a reason I sometimes don't post very often to my blogs.

I know you probably think it's because I'm busy, or I don't have anything to report on, but really, that's not the case.

Sometimes, my laptop gets usurped for a kitteh snoozing spot.

Removing such a kyoot kitteh from her sleeping spot would be horribly cruel, don't you think?

I certainly think it would be cruel. So I leave the kitteh snoozing and skip the blog entry.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Because it's Monday and all...

Elias objected rather strenuously about getting up this morning - even AFTER going back to bed for nearly an hour.

Perhaps he needs caffeine?

I especially love his tail as he goes back to sleep.

Hey, it's Monday. Go get yourself another cup of coffee while Elias finishes off my chai. (Yes, really. He drinks chai. OK, he steals my chai, right out of my cup, if I leave it unattended. This is why Elias is my husband's dog. Because if I had a dog, he would never do anything like that. Ever.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

More tile

In this episode of The Tile Saga, we finish laying the tile!

When last I left you, we only had the sides of the edges and one small section of the wall to do.

After breaking two tiles and burning a third, the hubby and the brother-in-law use the tried-and-true 'water cooled' method for cutting a hole in the tile for the shower head. (Why yes, in fact they are using a heavy-duty Dewalt drill with a carbide bit, while holding the tile under a steady stream of cold water in the kitchen sink. Sometimes ya gotta get creative to get the job done.)

But all that work paid of... they got the tile installed! Now you can see why we needed to cut the hole.

Next, the side walls. Measuring to cut the tile.

Sticking the last few tiles on.

Finished left side.

Finished right side.

Hubby photobombs my picture of the finished shower. But yaaaay! It's DONE!!! (Well, OK, except for the grout. But that's later.)

(Not familiar with Photobombs? Visit the Photobomb web site. Warning: may be NSFW.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mid-week kitteh

Someday I would like to have a maid.

Someone who comes by maybe every other week and cleans the bathrooms and the floor boards and inside the oven. You know, the stuff you never get to when you're cleaning. (Well, OK, maybe you do, but I don't. Unfortunately. Hence the maid.)

One thing I will NOT need a maid to do, though, is help me with the laundry.

Freya is already quite an expert laundry assistant. I've got all the "help" I need.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The tile saga continues...

As we've had time over the last few weeks, we've slowly but surely been tiling the shower in the second bathroom. We've already done the floor, so we've been working on the walls.

Building out the niche for the shampoo, etc.

First layer: 18 inch tiles, all cut out and ready to go.

First wall of the 18 inch tiles laid in.

Nearly done with the 18 inch tiles!

Nearly there... decorative strip plus 12x12 diagonals in!

View from the door... looks nice, doesn't it? (Ignore the step-stool, please.)

I think we're going to try to finish it up this week or next, depending on how much time we can find in the evenings. It's getting close!

Monday, September 20, 2010

My latest submission to There, I Fixed It

There have been any number of 'smack the forehead' kludges that we've found around the house as we've been fixing it up (remember the five electrical panel boxes we had when we moved in?), but I think this is the first time we have ever actually created a kludge. Let me 'splain.

This weekend, we moved a couple of things from the old house. Unfortunately, our office chair fell victim in the move. In a tragic accident, two of the casters broke off. Until we can get to Home Depot or Lowe's (which as most of you know, is so far from the house), we have come up with the following solution:

Why yes, that is in fact a block of wood...

...and a grout sponge (???) holding up the chair.

Note: I had nothing to do with the selection of implements used to hold up the chair. I only take the pictures.

So, does anybody have any suggestions as to what I should entitle these fabulous pictures for There I Fixed It? Leave it in the comments...

Friday, September 17, 2010


That's right... our old house is finally, officially, really, seriously SOLD!

The closing was this morning, and the payment arrived in our bank account around 2 p.m. this afternoon. So it's really, really, REALLY sold.


I won't go into how stressful it was getting it sold, or how much it's cost us to actually sell it... but at the end of the day, it's no longer our responsibility, and we can turn 100% of our attentions to this house.

I'll sort of miss it - we lived there for 8 years, and did sooo many renovations it's hard to keep track. The kids basically grew up there. But in the end, it was so stressful for us to maintain two houses, plus the cost of two mortgages, that it was more like a huge weight than anything else. And now, it's gone.

Thank goodness!

Things I have been meaning to do...

This week/weekend, I've finally gotten around to doing some things I've been meaning to do pretty much forever.

First off, after four years of being married, we finally scanned the pictures in our wedding photo album! In sort of the epic tragedy of wedding photos, our photographer seems to have fallen off the earth, so we only ever got our proofs. Fortunately, we do have those, and they are now happily digitized.

See, look! We did actually get married, and here's photographic proof!

And, after eight years of discussing digitizing our combined 300+ CDs, we have finally gone and done it. Well, OK, mostly... I still have about 30 CDs to go at the time of writing this. I even have a shiny new iPod so that we can hook it up to our stereo and actually listen to our music. For some reason, despite our large CD collection, we never get around to putting a CD in the CD player and playing it! Hopefully the iPod will solve this problem and make our music more accessible.

Ripping our CDs has been kinda entertaining. The hubby seems to have an inordinate amount of Iron Maiden, and he made fun of my fantastic collection of sound tracks from movies like Flashdance (I mean, who grew up in the 80s and DOESN'T have that???). I got reacquainted with my favorites, which included popular items such as 99 Red Ballons by Nena, Dangerous by Roxette, and Love Shack by the B52s. Oh, and of course my extensive U2 collection.

And now that these mostly useless projects have been completed, it's back to tiling the bathroom.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mid-week kitteh

This week on mid-week kitteh, I would like to show exactly how large Freya's snowshoe feet actually are.

For comparison, I'll use the palm of my hand. Let's just say that I don't have small, girly hands either.

See what I mean? This is why we call her "Little Miss Bigfoot."

Monday, September 13, 2010

And the most ingeneous chicken award goes to...

For about the past week, we've been trying to figure out where the chickens are laying their eggs.

Apparently the nesting boxes we built in the chicken coop aren't good enough, so most of the hens normally lay in their eggs in one of the planters under the carport. However, we've been doing construction here in the last week or so, and they haven't been laying here.

We have hunted ALL OVER for a nesting spot. We've looked under shrubs, in the woodpile, and in our recycling bin, with no luck. We even left the chickens in their coop for two days to encourage them to lay in the nesting boxes. We got a few eggs, but still not the usual number.

Our single Americauna, who lays green eggs, has been especially puzzling. Normally she lays an egg every day for three or four days in a row, has a day off, and then lays again for another couple of days. But we haven't seen a green egg in a week!

Today, we used the horse trailer to move some things from the old house, and when we got back, the Americauna immediately flew to the top of the trailer. As we were unloading things, my hubby heard a "cluckcluckCLUCK" noise coming from in the trailer, and looked around to find the chicken making it. And this is what he found:

Um, a chicken in the horse's hay net? How odd...

She looks sort of like a bodiless chicken here - a victim of fowl play, perhaps?

And then we realized why she was in the haynet... she's decided to lay her eggs in there! I guess some chickens aren't quite as dumb as we thought.

We actually left the trailer open and the haynet available for her. At least now we know where she's putting them!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tilin' the shower floor

For the past while, we've been working on tiling the shower in the second bathroom. It's the last step of having TWO FULLY FUNCTIONAL bathrooms! (I know, what a concept, right?)

The first step is laying the floor of the shower. Here's the shower pan that we built a while ago, super-clean (to ensure the mastic sticks) and ready to go with the tile.

We used 1 foot square sheets of 2 inch travertine-looking tile, which made it super easy to cut and fit. In fact, the only tiles we had to cut for the shower floor were the ones that go around the drain, and the ones on the angled side. Here we've sketched out the cuts and numbered the tiles around the drain so we can easily reassemble them.

You can see where we needed to trim a few tiles along the angled side, and create a few half-tiles to fill in the gaps.

After we got everything laid out and trimmed to fit, we moved the entire thing into the hallway, upside-down. This made it super easy to put mastic down on the shower floor and then lay all the tile.

See? It only took us a minute and 30 seconds to lay in the floor! I have video proof!

After laying the tiles in, we went back and smooshed them around a bit to make sure all the grout lines lined up and that the tiles were as even as possible and sloped toward the drain. Then we tapped them all down (gently) with a rubber mallet to set them solidly into the mastic.

The finished product! Interestingly, we had exactly one 2x2 inch tile leftover from this project.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mid-week kitteh

We interrupt your regularly scheduled mid-week kitteh with a cute doggie.

Ok, well, maybe just a cute doggie nose.

I call this "Still life: Dog nose, toes, and toy". Note the fireplace and other carefully-placed accoutrements in the background. You have no idea how hard I worked to stage this photo op.

Special thanks goes to Elias' photogenic nose for this picture.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reba - A new life Part III

This is the third, and final, in a series of posts about Reba's new life as a service dog. Part II is here if you haven't read it.

This is Lyena's email to me - the first time I'd heard from her. We now have a bit of a correspondence going on, which is awesome. It will be wonderful to get periodic updates about my little Lablet!

A Letter from Reba's New Mom

First, thank you so much for the wonderful letter you sent with ER. I was so disappointed not to meet you at graduation, but the letter, the terrific album and, of course, ER's stories, gave me so much more than I was expecting. I hope the wedding you attended was joyous. Graduation certainly was.

Up until a couple of years ago, I was independent with paralysis. In fact, my husband, D, tried for a long time to convince me to get a service dog (mostly because HE wanted a dog and we can't have pet dogs in our apartment!) but I couldn't justify it. The waiting list is so long and there are so many people truly in need of help, I just didn't think my circumstance warranted taking a dog from someone who wasn't independent. But a couple of years ago, things started to change. I developed moderate osteoporosis in my lower body (a common effect of chronic paralysis) and started fracturing bones with alarming ease. Though alternative treatments have made my bones a bit stronger now, it became clear that some of the things I'm able to do, I shouldn't do, as they create extra risk. The most pervasive example is picking things up off the floor. I drop things constantly, either from my hands or, more frequently, from my lap, and despite the risk, I was continuing to retrieve those items myself just for ease of living. But the truth is that I really shouldn't do it and given that, D's efforts started to gain traction.

I laughed when you mentioned in your letter the lengthy application process for getting Reba. Ours too was incredibly extensive and the various stages all took time. We had to fill out a super detailed application that covered everything from our lifestyle, our experience with dogs, and my dis/abilities, to our image of a "perfect" dog for us. Then I had to get my doctor to fill out paperwork certifying my need, and then yet another health care professional to speak to my ability to handle a dog. Then there was an extensive phone interview, then an all day orientation where I learned the basic command structure and had another extensive interview, at which point, FINALLY, we were placed on the waiting list. All that just to begin waiting! But we were lucky. I happened to get on the list at a time when it was short and six months later, we were at Team Training.

I have to admit, when I got the call inviting us to Team Training, I had mixed feelings. By then, I was almost 5 months pregnant and I'd been near totally incapacitated for most of that time. I wasn't sure I could handle the intensive schedule of Team Training. But I regained a tiny bit of energy in the following weeks, and we knew we wouldn't be able to attend another Team Training for at least a year, so we decided to give it a shot.

The first two days, the trainers had me rotate through five dogs. Reba was the only dog I worked with twice, and she was the first dog they gave me. I found out later they had been thinking about her as a match for me but, at the time, I didn't know that. That first session, the only thing I knew how to do was the sit command. I told Reba to sit, which she instantly did, and then from next to my wheelchair, she looked up at me, as if to say. "Is that what you wanted?" I looked down at her and that was that. I was hooked. The next time I worked with her, she stepped onto my footplate the moment I was given the leash, trying to get closer to me. I didn't expect it so my chair wasn't locked. Her weight pushed me back a little and we had a sweet little chat about what happens when you step on my chair without warning. In both encounters, I just felt like we were having a conversation. Though the other dogs I worked with were all responsive and obedient, I didn't feel a sense of connection with any of them. And I'm a total dog person. Connecting with dogs is not a difficult thing for me. Still, and most maddening, the staff at CCI is adamant that recipients not get attached to any particular dog before pre-matches are made on the third day. They ask that we really work hard to keep an open mind and heart. So much goes into the decision of where each dog gets placed, so much that we recipients can't even know. So, like a good girl, I spent the next two days trying to release my attachment to Reba. The night before pre-matches were supposed to be made, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. I was so anxious about their decision. I wanted Reba so badly, was so worried they'd give me another dog. I tried to reassure myself that they knew what they were doing, that they knew the dogs infinitely better than I did, that all the dogs were great, but it was really hard. The next morning, first thing, they started handing out dogs. I forced myself not to watch Reba's kennel. I was determined to make every effort to welcome and accept whatever dog they gave me. Dean didn't have nearly the willpower I did, though. He was riveted to her kennel, reporting from time to time that she was still in it. We were the eleventh family out of 12 to be given a dog. It was sheer torture. And when they brought Reba to me, I burst into tears. She climbed onto my lap, buried her nose between my body and the chair, and wagged her tail fiercely.

From that point on, she was with us 24/7. I did all the rest of my training with her, she stayed in our dorm at night, I fed her, took her out to toilet, played with her. And she was unbelievably perfect. Not only was she the perfect dog for us, fitting exactly the description we'd given in our application, but she was perfect in her responsiveness. I even started to worry a little that I wouldn't know how to handle problems if they came up because I hadn't had a chance to practice while trainers were around! So many of the other recipients commented how well-suited we seemed to each other. She is, simply, the perfect dog for me.

She's been doing really well since we got home. I thought there might be some stress behavior but I haven't seen any of that really. She has managed to find several escape routes from her travel kennel which has caused us to devise creative solutions, virtually one for every evening she's been here! And sometimes when she retrieves my water bottle, it's more fun to push it around with her nose. But all in all, she's doing really great. The hardest part is just being consistent with her. She's such a sweetie and we adore her so much, we just want to schmoozle her all the time. It's those puppy wiles you mentioned. Tough to remember who's in charge!

Favorite moments so far -- On the drive home from CCI (about 2 hours), our car was stuffed to the brim, so Reba only had the space on the floor in front of one backseat. It took her awhile to figure out that she could comfortably curl up in that space, so for the first 30 minutes or more, she laid on her side with her head cranked back. And promptly FELL ASLEEP. I was sure she'd need puppy chiropractic when we got home, but she was fine. The family nap: She's allowed on the bed if invited (which is frequent) and likes to nap lying in between Dean and I, usually leaning on one of us with a paw stretched out to be touching the other. Doing training exercises with her: We take a few minutes everyday to work on skills, sometimes something knew I'm building and sometimes to fine tune something she's a bit lazy about and she LOVES it. Her tail is always wagging, she's always looking for more, and when I throw a little party for her when she does something right, she can barely contain her joy and excitement. It thrills me that working is so much fun for her. I also love the way she cuddles. She loves to bury her nose against some part of my body, or press her head against mine. And sometimes, she'll sniff my ear wildly. She's just too much fun.

She's been out a lot this week, too. Two doctor's appointments, the Apple store, a restaurant, the dog licensing place. She's the consummate professional. I hope I don't ruin her!!

OK, I better sign off and get to some other things today. I'm very happy to stay in touch and hope to meet sometime in the future. I warn you I'm a terrible correspondent, not very consistent, but always know it's nothing personal. I just get distracted by my life. And I'll do my best to give you news of Miss Reba from time to time. My husband is better at that sort of thing than I, so maybe he can help out.

And finally, I just want to say THANK YOU for being Reba's first mom. She means the world to me, and I know that her time with you has played a big part in who she is today. I couldn't be more grateful. You did a wonderful job, I know she'll be so happy to see you when she gets to again, and I will always be thankful that you were inspired to raise her. She's a lucky girl. And so am I.

All best to you. Write whenever you feel like it. I'll always be happy to hear from you. And send more puppy pictures!!! :) Here are some photos for you. I'll send more when I've downloaded them from camera and phone.

Isn't she just perfect?

I'll continue to share pictures and updates about Reba as I receive them. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to visit her and meet Lyena and her husband in person! Until then, make me proud, little Lablet!