Friday, July 11, 2014

Heads-Up! (Imaginary) Housekeeper

Dear Valued (Imaginary) Housekeeper,


Heads-up! Next week, my schedule will be a ridiculous pain-in-the-patoot with work start times at 4:00 AM. Yes, AM! I know. It hurts my feelings too. 

Stock the pantry and fridge now:

chocolate covered espresso beans
cucumbers for cucumber water
beans for quick protein
organic peaches, berries, grapes
Claritin
Brooklyn Roasters, Corner Donut Shop coffee K-cups
organic half and half
cheese cubes, preferably smoked gouda & mild cheddar
part skim mozzarella string cheese
kale, pepita, ginger salads
and whatever else yummy that I can't think of, but will totally crave

Also I need a new pillow, and you know how I hate shopping in person. (Shopping online is entirely different. Were shopping online an Olympic sport, I'd earn at least a silver medal.) Please get a standard size, medium support, NOT down pillow for me.

Please keep things running smoothly at the 1952 House while I make retail a prettier place to shop. Make sure the pets are fed on time and receive lots of brushing, cuddling and bootie-scratches. If you spot the feral kittens of backyard infamy, scoop them up and make them feel at home in the dressing room until I can see to them.

Please keep your mobile phone on your person at all times in case I need a breakfast taco delivery around 7:30 or 8:00 AM.

Together, we will get through this. Thanks!

Your adoring fan & taskmaster,
Jenn


Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Elephant in the (Bath)Room

The floor around our one and only bathtub at the 1952 House creaks and groans during dry winter months. As moaned about previously, I would love a new bathtub due to the peeling glaze I applied seven years ago in an attempt to prolong the life of the now-62-year-old tub. The new bathtub need not be fancy. In fact, I have an affordable, not fancy, replacement picked out from Home Depot. 





The problem lies underneath the bathtub in the form of rotted subfloor. I hosted a foundation expert last week who poked around under the piers and beams for an estimate to repair the one beam that I thought was causing the creaky bathroom floor. The one beam turned out to be one beam sitting off kilter, one pier sitting off kilter and a rotten subfloor under the bathtub area. Yikes. How did our home inspector miss all that?

To install a new bathtub, we have to be ready for several contingencies: repair the one beam and one pier; rip out the old bathtub and some surrounding tiles to see how far the rotten subfloor extends; possibly remove the one and only toilet and all surrounding tile if the rotten subfloor extends to that area; possibly rip out the bathroom sink and all surrounding tile if the rotten subfloor extends to that area. Then put it all back together with the new subfloor and new tub.  

Chad and I were prepared to shower at the gym for a few days to accommodate the new tub installation. However, with this new information, we are not prepared to open the floor of the one and only bathroom at the 1952 House for goodness knows how long. We are not prepared to trek to our respective gyms every time we need to use the toilet. I also refuse to put a port-o-potty in the yard. REFUSE.

That know-it-all, Hindsight, keeps nagging me that we should have replaced the bathtub when we first bought the 1952 House and redid the bathroom. Live and learn. Our next house will have more than one toilet, and will feature a bathtub made and installed in the twenty-first century.

For the time being, I'm going to learn to love showers, ignore the peeling glaze on the tub, ignore the creaky bathroom floor, and do my very best to ignore the elephant in our one and only bathroom.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Our Big Screen Viewing of Pee Wee's Big Adventure



Chad and I (along with eleventy-hundred other Austin peeps) attended Sound & Cinema on the lawn of the Long Center for a showing of Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Dare I say it, and risk tempting higher temperatures to muscle their way to Austin, but the weather was lovely: not too hot or humid. 

Urban Achievers brass band played jazzy-pop songs before the show. (Even the tuba player manages to dance as he does solos. What a fun spectacle to behold!) A guy dressed as Pee Wee ran up for a brief introduction of the film, informing us that "today's secret word is Pee Wee". *aaahhhhhh* *waves jazz-hands in the air* Cyclists road past along the trails of Town Lake/Ladybird Lake, one cyclist giving a loud Pee Wee Herman laugh as he cruised behind the big screen.

I mention our attendance of something outside, because Chad and I increasingly find ourselves hiding at home, basking in the comfort of air-conditioning and refrigerated beverages. Thus far, this summer is nice and mild. We need to pry ourselves out of the 1952 House and enjoy Austin.




No Kittens, Also No Raccoons

My pal, Tracy, of mystery dinner theatre fame/infamy, loaned us a few humane traps for the kittens spotted in our backyard last week. (Three separate trips to the Austin Humane Society yielded no traps, as they are all out on loan for the booming kitten season.) Despite baiting the traps with delicious, mushy salmon kitten foods, there were no nibbles. We kept Sonic inside, so as not to scare the kittens, and so as not to have to free him from the traps umpteen times each night.

Yesterday morning just before I went to clean out the traps and unset them for the day, I spotted a prosperous raccoon climbing down from the backdoor neighbor's roof line. As cute as raccoons are with their little masks, thumbs and fuzzy selves, I don't want to catch one. I fully acknowledge that a wild raccoon is more likely to bite my face and give me rabies, than to bring it in for cuddles.

I admit defeat. Sonic, Chad and I scared those kittens away from ever returning to the 1952 House. I hope someone else scooped them out of harm's way and started feeding them.




Monday, June 23, 2014

Feral Kittens & Public Service Announcement

Our big bruiser boy kitty Sonic patrolled the backyard of the 1952 House tonight while Chad and I watched Masterpiece Mystery. My ears ever on alert to kitty distress calls heard a feline cry, paused the mystery story and ran for the backyard. Sonic yowled with concern, but not his usual battle ululations to intruder-cats. After grabbing flip-flops and flashlights, Chad and I separated Sonic from what we thought was a baby bunny that hopped off to the far right side of our yard fence line. Then Sonic tore off to the far left side of our yard. When I chased down Sonic, I also cornered a tiny kitten that looked about four to six weeks old, and looked JUST LIKE Sonic. (All of our cats are spayed/neutered. It's just a coincidence.) Chad and I tried to catch the kitten, but it ran off to the same spot as the "baby bunny", and slipped under the fence line to a neighbor's yard. 

I hauled Sonic into the 1952 House, then set out fresh water and kitty food should the kittens return. In the morning I'll go to the Austin Humane Society to rent a humane trap for the kittens. My goal is to get the kittens to a shelter intake where they can be safe, get their shots, get spayed/neutered, be socialized and get adopted. Yes, I'll make a monetary donation to whichever shelter will take them. Thank goodness, Austin is a no-kill city, meaning adoptable pets are not "euthanized"/killed at the shelters. 

If I catch the mama cat too, my goal is to get her spayed, care for her during recovery and release her back into our yard. We'll start leaving food and water on our deck for her, and possibly add an outdoor cat to our brood if she doesn't run for the hills. Of course, if we catch mama cat I'll put up "Found Cat" posters too, on the off chance she has a home. 

Chad and I were not at all planning on adding to the pack at the 1952 House. In fact, we were hoping to get the pet population down to two through natural attrition. 

If you have feral cats/kittens in your neighborhood in Austin, please take advantage of Austin Humane Society's generous programs to help curb the homeless/unwanted cat population through trapping, neutering and returning. 

Click this link for more information: http://www.austinhumanesociety.org/ferals

Outside of Austin, click this link for resources on feral cats/kittens:
http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/feral_cats/tips/what_you_can_do_for_ferals.html

Sonic came to our home from an acquaintance who cared for a feral cat colony in her decidedly upscale neighborhood. She trapped, neutered and returned the adult cats, and got the kittens into adoption programs. I'd like to think that Sonic's distress cry in the backyard tonight meant "Hey! Come help these kittens. It's my turn to pay it forward." However, it likely meant, "Hey! Get these kittens out of here. I don't want to share my resources, such as food, water or lap-space."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Staycation Stuff We Did


Not us: Chad's Cousin and New Husband with Best Cake Ever

Staycation kicked off with a quick road trip to Houston Friday afternoon for Chad's cousin's surprise wedding. Yes, surprise wedding. Let that sink in for a moment. The bride and groom got overwhelmed trying to plan a wedding, and opted for a quickie Justice of the Peace union. The bride's parents planned and threw a lovely wedding to surprise her. The beautiful bride found out about the wedding a few weeks in advance, so she didn't have long to sweat any details. As the daughter of a former wedding planner, I feel fairly qualified to declare that the surprise wedding was awesome! The floral arrangements (white hydrangeas, big white & pink roses) were some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. The ceremony was meaningful yet mercifully expedient. There wasn't too much speechifying at toast time. The cake was pretty, traditional and the BEST tasting wedding cake I've ever eaten. Chad and I stayed in Houston one night only and drove back to Austin Saturday at noon. 

Saturday was a freebie day to rest and let the road rattle from our trip to Houston subside.



Best Cat Toy Ever from Lofty Dog


Sunday (rhymes with fun day) we made fullest use of the Village shopping center: checked out Lofty Dog, a cute pet supplies store where we bought the best cat toy ever; caught the new X-Men movie at Alamo Drafthouse; looked at a possible office space for Chad; had a sip at The Goodnight; and ate frozen yogurt at some froyo place whose name I can't remember. Park once for a full day of stuff, kids!

Monday was an unscheduled choose-your-own-adventure day. Chad napped for three hours while I inhaled (read quickly) a book: If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster. At 6:30 we picked up the dog from her "summer camp" wrestling and running in circles with other dogs adventure. I think Janie would prefer to live at Camp Four Paws with her canine friends, but she had to return home to the weird cats and boring people. *sigh*

Tuesday Chad and I tooled around at Laguna Gloria to admire the outdoor art installations before brunch at Kerbey Lane Cafe. We also checked out the A Secret Affair exhibition at The ComtemporAry Austin Jones Center on Congress Avenue which featured some intriguing works. I highly recommend this exhibit if you like your art in an air-conditioned setting. Even if you dislike the art currently exhibited at Jones Center, the architecture of the interior and exterior of the building are pretty amazing to behold, especially at night when the lighted glass tiles start to sparkle.

Wednesday we opted for a kitschy tourist trap meets educational field trip to Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown. I'm a bit wary of going underground, but I did just fine in this cave space. The tour lasted a little over an hour and covered half a mile of cave with stalactites, stalagmites, rock formation columns, little pure water pools and creeks. Our tour guide was friendly, informative and just the right amount of funny. (You don't want a total comedian taking you 70 feet underground, half a mile into a cave. This is seriously underground, and should be a certain amount of seriously safe.) 





Whilst up north, we lunched at Monument Cafe also in sleepy, quaint Georgetown. Monument Cafe is known for its pies. We had coconut cream pie, which was a satisfying standard. The huge serving of strawberry lemonade with freshly blended chunks of strawberry was the standout of our lunch - yum. 

If I Had to Live in Georgetown, This Would Be My House


We drove around the main square of Georgetown admiring the courthouse on our way back to I-35, before spotting this beautiful, grand, historic home for sale on S. Austin Ave. It can be ours for $1,051,875. Buy that lotto ticket now. 

Slightly south of Georgetown sits Round Rock, home of Round Rock Donuts. We hardly ever get this far out of our central Austin bubble, so it was imperative that we stop and grab a few of the deliciously decadent, yellow dough, melt in your mouth bits of fried goodness. Totally worth the dietary splurge!



Fancy Doors to Fancy Fonda San Miguel in our Neighborhood





Fancy Fountain at Fancy Fonda San Miguel





Thursday was another free day featuring a whole lot of nothing. Chad napped while I read and looked at interwebs. We wandered out to Fonda San Miguel around dinner time. I love the architecture of the place even if the service is always a bit uppity & rushed, and the food is a little fancy, heavy & challenging for my finicky vegetarian ways. A big storm rolled into Austin Thursday night with an impressive lightning show. I like the think the angel sculpture heralded the approaching storm. The trees in our neighborhood took a battering, but luckily we only lost a few tiny branches at the 1952 House.

Friday after Chad's requisite staycation nap we had evening adventures with a historic walking tour of four square blocks of downtown Austin. I don't recommend the tour, so I won't list a link. The tour gave some watered down information that I already knew. Overbearing motorcycle engines revving from the annual ROT Rally (Republic of Texas Biker Rally) didn't help the walking tour experience. We wanted to get away from the main drag of the downtown scene post haste. 

However, since we secured an ever-elusive parking spot downtown, we stopped into The Ginger Man, slightly off the ROT Rally main drag, for a nightcap and snack to make the most of our trip downtown. A handsome, tawny colored rat with a sweet face decided to run in through the opened patio door to greet us and check out the scene inside The Ginger Man. Aw, cute little fuzzy rat. 

Wait... a rat! 

A rat in here! 

With us! 

Running really close to us! 

I admit that I'm a weirdo for feeling bad for the rat. The big garage bay door from the patio was open, inviting even. How was the rat supposed to know it wasn't welcome to run in and forage for fresh food stuffs? The first time the manager chased the rat back outside, I said, "Cry freedom!" The second time the rat scurried inside, Chad and I scampered on out of there. 

On the way back to the car, I snapped this photo of some street art in a covered walkway for a construction site. We counted so many cranes for new construction in downtown Austin Friday night. Don't call Austin a boomtown, because the bust curse might come crashing. 



Saturday we received an email that our favorite source for jeans, Hem, is closing its doors at the end of June after 10 years in business. It's sad to see a local business shuttered, but we took a tiny bit of solace in the 40% off sale offer. Our final trip to Hem was a bust due to the dwindling inventory, but at least we got closure and said a proper goodbye. Later we drowned our sorrows at Hopfields with a beer each, filling fresh salads and delicious fries. We didn't linger due to World Cup Soccer on a giant screen in the tiny space.

Sunday we cleaned the 1952 House like whirling dervishes. This frenzy of chores included pulling the bed out of its usual spot to clean under and around it. Apparently the cats' favorite place to barf is under our bed. Gross. We remediated that situation, then had a long talk with the cats about preferred spots for their barfs, such as outside, or on tile floors that are easier to clean.

Overall, staycation (versus vacation with busy schedule, travel, pet care and hotel expenses) best fit our needs for relaxation and decompression. Plus we live in the uber-hip, perhaps over-hyped, tourist mecca that is Austin. Other people get on airplanes to come here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Staycation Ponderings

I'm one of those ambiverts (part time introvert, part time extrovert) who avoids too much down time by trying to fill my days & nights with active doing and/or active reading. Too much time to sit and think stirs the neurotic tendencies to overanalyze everything. EVERYTHING.

Chad and I stayed pretty busy so far on staycation with a trip to Houston for a wedding, movie dates, dining out, trips to Laguna Gloria and The ContemporAry Austin for art viewing and discussing (and judging). More field trips dot the day planner for our waking hours. But at night, when I'm trying to go to sleep, my mind starts doing Olympic caliber wandering. A recurring theme: I need to go back to school. Not to earn a masters degree or a PhD, but for continuing education courses that result in a certification or license. I want to have more meaningful work, and yes, I want to make more money for my time.

Also on staycation thus far, I finished two books I started before the time off work, and pretty much inhaled a book yesterday while Chad took a three-hour coma nap. Avoidance through reading does the psyche good. Or does it?

Off to the next field trip. Check back for a full report Sunday next week.


Sunday, June 01, 2014

Summer Plantscapes



I made pretty plantscapes (like a mini landscape) at work a few weeks ago. The luster votive is pail-shaped like a beach bucket (and on clearance for $4.97!) which inspired me to snag some unused props from the visuals area. Tumbled sea glass, a starfish and shell in the luster beach pail make for a lovely, summery plantscape, if I do say so myself. That succulent looks kind of like a sea anemone. Right?




This morning at work, I noticed an empty butler tray stand with mirror tray in the front window. (The horror!) I sprang into action with more beach-inspired items and props. That Hemingway votive candle smells so good: like Key West, rum and old books. I have a purchasing freeze on scented candles and books right now, or I'd snap up a few Hemingway candles for myself. (I have a well organized backstock of scented candles and reading materials at the 1952 House, but am the tiniest bit scared of reaching "hoarder" capacity.)




Speaking of summer plantscapes, the tomato plants at the 1952 House look prosperous, and may topple the tomato cages. Check back soon for photographic evidence of our first tomato harvest of the season. The herbs already yielded mojitos, salad dressings, pasta dressings and general yummy smells. Hooray for rain (and my rainwater barrels)!