Organizing

This weekend was an organization weekend.

Saturday we went to The Container Store and bought some industrial shelving for the shed, since the wooden boards out there kept falling down and weren’t doing the job. It was hot this weekend (80 degrees both days!), so we waited until after dark to put the shelves together and put them in the shed. They also provide more shelf space than we had, so now we have some extra space in there!

I had the bright idea to use some shelves we’d used at the townhouse for plants to store the extra pots that have been sitting on the ground for the last couple of years. I think I’d always hoped to find a place for those shelves somewhere in the yard, but there isn’t really a good place, so using them for storage is better than not using them at all.

We also bought some more shelves for the closet in the study, which straddle the cat litter in there. Sunday it turned out that Magic Online was down, so I wasn’t able to do a Magic draft and instead I went through a huge amount of stuff on the floor, on the bookcase shelves, and sitting on top of the filing cabinets and got it all put away, or thrown out. Some of it’s been sitting there for two years or more, and now the study looks almost fit for human habitation (well, by someone other than me).

Oh, and we also bought a new office chair (one of these); it’s not fancy, but it’s a lot nicer than the 20-year-old armless chair I’ve had since graduate school. Now I just need to find a good desk to replace my similar-vintage unit up there.

It makes me tremendously happy to either get rid of a whole bunch of stuff, or file it away and have space left over. Like I’ve really accomplished something and I’m behaving like an adult.

I got a lot of other things done, too, like testing the lawn sprinklers (which I promptly forgot to turn on, so I did that this morning), watering the plants, hosing down the glider chair on the front porch (which was quite dusty), and vacuuming parts of the house.

I think our big projects this summer will need to be putting in another shed to store larger items like the lawn mower, and installing some wall-mounted shelving in the garage. The ultimate goal is to clear out the other side of the garage so I can park my car in it (Debbi uses the side that’s already clear). That will be a bunch of work, but I think it will be the last of the work we’d planned to do when we moved in. Three years ago.

Okay, sometimes it takes me a while to get to stuff.

The Cusp of Spring

The lawn has been mowed:

Mowed Lawn

The solar lights are ready for deployment at twilight:

Solar Lights

The yellow wildflowers (or are they weeds?) have taken over the edging and haven’t yet died back:

Yellow Flowers

The Japanese maple is budding:

Japanese Maple

In some places places the lawn had gotten as much as a foot long. I did a pretty high cut for this first mow of the season, but it was still a struggle in a few spots.

The cheap solar lights I buy only seem to last for one summer. All but three of the ones from last year have stopped working. OSH was paying the sales tax on all purchases this weekend, so I bought the new ones, among many other things.

We have another Japanese maple in the front yard, and it’s taking off; I think a year ago it was a little taller than I am, and now it’s three or four feet taller. The one pictured above in the back yard is still only a little taller than me.

Supposedly we’re supposed to get a little more rain tomorrow, but I’m skeptical. I hope we get a few more showers this month before the rainy season winds down, though; we really need it!

Amaryllis

For Christmas my aunt and uncle gave me an amaryllis plant. Pretty neat, but before I set it up I had to check whether it was poisonous to cats, since both Jackson and Sadie like munching on plants (yet another obstacle to my mastery of growing orchids!). It turns out it is moderately toxic, so I decided I couldn’t just set it up in the house. So it sat for the better part of a month while I thought about it (or, really, ignored it).

Around my birthday I realized that the plant was forcing the issue, as even though I hadn’t watered it it was sprouting anyway. So I unpacked it – it came in a very attractive little pot – and put it out on the front porch, where it will get a lot of indirect sunlight and hopefully not get too cold. And I started watering it.

Well, as of this morning it looked like this:

Amaryllis

And it looks like it has more flowering yet to come.

I’m not certain what I’ll do once it goes dormant for the summer, maybe put it in the garage, where it will stay warm and get some light. But it’s working out pretty well so far.

That Darned Tree

Our house has a big ol’ sycamore tree hanging over the front yard. For the most part this is a good thing, as it keeps the yard (and the front porch) shady for most of the day in the summer.

The winter is another story: The tree starts dropping leaves in October, and sometimes it seems like it never stops. Last weekend I was out filling our yard waste bin again, and it’s mid-February! And the tree still has plenty of leaves left on it! It’s not even particularly attractive in the fall, as the leave turn brown rather than turning bright colors. Also, our neighborhood has a couple of dozen such trees around, but our tree seems to have more leaves left on it than the other do. Geez!

I think what’s happening is the warm weather and California’s drought that’s on right now: Normally we get plenty of rain in the fall and early winter, along with colder temperatures and occasional gusts of wind. I think the warm weather is tricking the tree a little, but more importantly the rain and wind are important to knock all those leaves off. Most of the leaves I raked last weekend fell during the rain showers the previous weekend.

Now we’re heading into spring, and I bet the leaves will start falling faster as the tree starts sprouting some buds. Most of the flowering trees in the area are in bloom right now, and the deciduous trees are probably not far behind. So I expect more raking in the month ahead.

Plus, there’s a forecast of more showers in the middle of next week, so maybe that will finally knock the last of those leaves off that darned tree.

Home Maintenance

After our whirlwind time last weekend, we wanted to have a quieter time this weekend. It didn’t quite work out that way, but it was pretty good anyway.

Friday morning I took my car in. I had it in a week earlier for an oil change, and they said they’d noticed both an oil leak (possibly coming from the head gasket) and a power steering fluid leak. They suggested I take my car to have the engine block steam-cleaned, and then come back in a week to see if they could find the leak. So I did that, and they couldn’t find any evidence of recent leakage. So perhaps whatever they saw was an old leak which has since been fixed. They also showed me how to monitor my power steering fluid level to know when to add more fluid, or when it might need to get fixed (which will be expensive). So, that was about as good as I could have hoped for. I did get a new battery, though, since mine was nearing the end of its life.

That night we went out for Italian food and drinks, which I was craving. And then we went for one of our walks around the neighborhood, which we haven’t done recently since Debbi has been hurt (shin splints and/or pulled muscles in her leg), or sick, or we’ve just been busy (after all, I bike to work on the days we did our walks over the winter). We dropped in on my friend Alex and his family so Debbi could see how their black lab Alton is doing. He’s no longer a puppy, is how he’s doing (well, he’s dog-sized by still has a puppy brain). He also got so excited that he peed on my sandal. Thanks, Alton!

Saturday we ran some errands. The filter warning light for our refrigerator’s ice maker has been on for a couple of weeks, so we bought a new filter for it (and subsequently found the one we already had). We then discovered that it didn’t actually have a filter installed! Yet it took two years for the warning light to come on. Weird. Well, there’s a filter now.

We also bought a new area rug for our family room, as we had to get rid of the old rug because Newton had peed on it. (I hadn’t really intended this entry to be about animals peeing, but there you go.) Debbi wanted one that didn’t have shag since the old one was a pain to clean and vacuum. We found one we like pretty well, and put it down. And then we decided to run it the other direction, so we moved it on Sunday. Lots of furniture moving. But it did give us a chance to pretty thoroughly de-fur the couch.

The cats love the new rug. They’ve all been lying on it, especially when it’s in the sun, and we’ve played with them on it. Jackson likes to lie under the coffee table now that the rug is there.

We made a trip out to one of our favorite pet stores to buy some toys for the cats and also for Debbi’s sister’s family’s kitten. And we got Chinese for dinner, trying a couple of new dishes by ordering their prix fixe menu (or do I have to figure out what “prix fixe” is in Chinese to write that?).

We have been a little worried about Roulette since Newton left us last week, since now all three cats she grew up with are gone, and she hasn’t warmed up to the kittens yet. So we gave her some extra attention. We even each got her to play for a bit, and she tolerated having Sadie sleep almost right next to her. I wonder if she knew Newton was not in good shape and if that was stressing her out. Now that that’s been resolved, maybe she will integrate with the kittens a little better.

Sunday I got up and mowed the lawn. The back lawn was looking a little brown, and I finally did what ought to help it: Replaced the solenoid for the valve which controls the automatic sprinklers for that area. I hate doing those kinds of home repair, because it seems like when I do it not only do I fail to fix the problem, but I manage to break something else. But this went smoothly (other than dousing my shorts with water when I removed the old solenoid, not realizing I should have shut off the water to the valves first), and I ran the sprinklers in the evening to let them get some water overnight. Talking with my friend Chad about sprinklers I’ve learned a bunch of things about them recently. I’m not sure I’d want to actually replace one of the valves myself, but maybe I could.

We wound up the all-too-short weekend by grilling pork chops and asparagus for dinner (and I made some sour apple martinis), and then I went upstairs to pay bills.

The weekend flew by, and I feel like we didn’t have quite enough downtime during it, but we did get a lot of stuff done, and between the family room and the sprinklers it feels more comfortable now.

Home Project Weekend

This weekend we took advantage of OSH‘s “we pay the sales tax” weekend to pick up a bunch of stuff for around the house. For example:

  • New filters for the HVAC system. Apparently you’re supposed to replace them more often than once every 2 years! (LOL.) The old ones were completely filthy, ew.
  • New bulbs for the under-counter lights in the kitchen and laundry room. 6 of the 9 bulbs in the kitchen were out. Replacing them was simple once I figured out how to get the covers off.
  • A couple of new daisies for sports in the yard, as a couple of plants died off over the last year.

I also mowed the lawn and gave it some food, so it was a pretty productive weekend. I still haven’t replaced the busted tube on my bike, so I still haven’t biked to work, but hopefully this week.

We also went to Half Moon Bay yesterday morning for the first time in a few months, and enjoyed the incoming warm weather to go for a couple of nice walks along the coast. We got parking at the trailhead near Pillar Point Harbor to go on this nice walk out to the beach (very popular with dog-walkers we noticed), although we didn’t walk along the beach itself.

I feel like I’m finally just about caught up on all the stuff that piled up during my trip east last month.

From Santa Cruz to Crate & Barrel

I’ve had four of the last six days off. Well, two of those were the weekend, of course, but I took Wednesday and Thursday off to both catch up on some things and to have a fun day off since I haven’t taken much vacation time this year.

Debbi took Wednesday off and we decided to drive down to Santa Cruz and then up the coast. We had breakfast at Stacks in Campbell, and then drove down to Santa Cruz. We passed to small traffic jams on the way, but otherwise it wasn’t too bad.

In Santa Cruz we went to the Museum of Natural History, which is small, but hard to beat for the $4 admission. Plus it’s near a nice beach which you can walk to while your parking pass is still good. Then we went into downtown for lunch, dropped in a couple of stores to shop, and visited The Penny Ice Creamery, which a cow-orker recommended and which was very tasty!

Our drive up the coast was uneventful, other than looking around to stop at the few beaches I wanted to drop in on. I remembered doing this same drive 13 years ago when I got my car, and stopping at several beaches which were clearly visible from Highway 1, and this time we stopped at some other ones. We particularly enjoyed seeing kitesurfers at one beach:

We also stopped at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and saw a couple of sea lions from a distance, and visited Pebble Beach (no, not the one with the famous golf course).

We should’ve brought some water bottles with us, but otherwise it was a nice drive along the coast seeing some sights we hadn’t seen before.

Debbi went back to work Thursday and I worked on stuff at home, such as mowing the lawn. I also took care of some of my Mom’s affairs – such as cancelling her cell phone contract, since she doesn’t even know where her cell phone is at this point; if she ever needs one again, a prepaid phone will probably be the way to go. I’m constantly surprised at how many details there are to take care of, yet how most of them are not too hard individually – they just add up over time. Managing my own affairs is hard enough!

I ran a couple of errands for my own, and left lunch a little too late, settling on buying stuff for PB&J sandwiches at home.

Friday I had a 1-day work week, and Debbi and I went to Cascal for dinner. Yum!

Over the weekend we worked on some home projects. It started with a trip to the vet with Blackjack, who has been breathing more audibly lately and one of his eyes has been getting gunked up. We got some drops for his eye, and some blood work done (which came back the same as his last tests). We’re always worrying that his next symptoms might be the other shoe dropping, but so far it’s all be pretty little stuff (though the vet visits get expensive). He and Newton have both been doing pretty well this summer.

We went by Crate & Barrel to buy some new drinking glasses, and ended up also buying some wine cabinets, which we’ve needed for a while. (The old Ikea bookcase currently holding our wine is not in great shape.) We also tried to go to Ikea, but couldn’t find a parking space! Or, rather, we could, but only a lo-o-ong way from the front door, so we gave up. We went back Sunday morning and bought some shelving for our dining room, to store knick-knacks and other things that don’t currently have a home. I put it together and then we unpacked two of the last boxes remaining from our move. Almost done! I think we have 3 or 4 boxes in the study yet to unpack, but at least 2 of those are old gaming materials that I can’t quite decide to get rid of.

So a pretty productive weekend all-in-all. We finished it by grilling steak & baked potatoes, and playing a round of lawn bowling.

It was back to work today. Hard to believe fall has arrived already!

Fun With Smoke Detectors

I wrote how two weekends ago we had our smoke detectors go off during a power outage at home. I’m still pretty sure they went off due to steam from the shower (since the vent fan in the bathroom wasn’t working, the power being out and all). Annoying, but it happens.

This morning I was woken up by the smoke alarm going off at 6:10 am. Which is about 40 minutes before my alarm went off. I was not happy.

The strange thing is that the thing only did its three-beep signal once, and then stopped. But I got up anyway because I wondered if it would go off again in 5 minutes or something. But it didn’t.

Our house has 7 smoke detectors, which I believe are connected to the power supply (and have battery backups), 5 upstairs and 2 downstairs, and they’re also connected to each other. When they operate normally they have a green LED which is on constantly, and a red LED which flashes once a minute. (It’s pretty hard to see because it flashes very briefly, and you have to sit for up to a minute watching it.)

I went around to each detector and saw that 6 of them were flashing green, and one (in the downstairs hallway) was not. The instructions say that flashing green indicates that the alarm which is flashing was recently triggered and then the triggering situation went away.

What on earth would trigger six alarms for just a few seconds and then stop, but not the seventh alarm?

My best guess is that there was some sort of power surge or outage. Either that or one alarm was triggered by something but for some reason five others went into that flashing mode.

Another possibility is that I need to clean the detectors, which the instructions recommend doing and which we’ve never done. And another possibility is that one or more detectors is failing. So I should test them.

The cats were pretty funny after the alarm went off. Roulette was all wound up, running around and meowing. Newton was sitting in the downstairs hallway, and then was a bit restless, walking upstairs (which he doesn’t often do since his hospital stay last spring) and joining me for my shower. Blackjack was snoozing with me when the alarm went off, came down for breakfast while I was reading the instructions, and then went up to sleep in the study, which he doesn’t often do. Newton and Rou I assume were disturbed by the beeping, but Blackjack is deaf so I think my getting up early just threw him off.

Anyway, I went around the house and reset the six flashing detectors, and nothing else happened with them this morning.

Hopefully this was just a fluke.

Impromptu Weekend

We had a pretty busy weekend lined up this past one, and then it got even busier with some sudden plans (“sudden plans”? Is that a thing?) that came up.

Saturday morning Debbi had an appointment with the hair stylist (on Saturday morning as the result of her schedule getting jumbled up during the previous week), so I spent the morning finishing up some work on the study (okay, mostly I was filing Magic cards, but also paying bills).

When she got back we went to lunch and then to the hardware store.

See, a couple of weeks ago I inadvertently fertilized part of the lawn. (Well, I was planting some new seed, with a mix that included mulch and fertilizer.) I noticed last week that that patch of lawn was growing much better than the rest of the lawn – which has gotten a bit brown despite all the rain – so I determined to fertilize the rest of it. I bought a fertilizing machine from OSH and spent some time on Saturday doing the lawn. I had to run back to OSH for more fertilizer, having probably over-fertilized part of the lawn (but it probably needed it). Whee! Now I’m trying to keep from checking the lawn every morning and night to see if it’s looking greener and lusher. 🙂

We also picked up some new solar lights, and a new hose and a box for it. Home improvement! Well, yard improvement.

(Wait until I buy a shed and see how much I write about that!)

As I was finishing up, I got a call from my friend Syd, who was in town for one night and was inviting some of his friends out for dinner. So on fairly short notice Debbi and I got our act together and joined them. It was good to see him, as I’ve missed him since he left.

This was in lieu of our usual Saturday plans of going to Cafe Borrone. We’ve been down on Borrone lately because the variety, prices and portion sizes of their entrees have all been going in the wrong directions, and they’ve eliminated some of our favorite desserts. So going elsewhere wasn’t unwelcome (we’d planned to have dinner elsewhere anyway). One of the desserts they’ve eliminated was the chocolate rum cake from The Prolific Oven, so after dinner we went to that establishment and got a couple of slices of cake. In theory I guess we could consider hanging out there on Saturday evening from time to time. (We’ve tried the coffee chops in downtown Mountain View, but they all tend to have bands on the weekend nights, which puts a damper on our desire for a quiet reading evening.)

Friday night we got an invitation from our friends Chad and Camille to visit on Sunday for swimming and a barbecue. So Sunday morning we went to the grocery store and Debbi made potato salad to bring. Chad and me and the kids spent, what, an hour or two? swimming in their pool, and then we had dinner. We hadn’t seen much of them since last year, since we’ve all been busy, and we had a great time. Camille tells us that their daughter has upgraded us from “friends of their parents” to “cousins”. 🙂

Monday was my and Debbi’s 11th dating anniversary, and we went out for our usual anniversary dinner. Where have the years gone?

Since then I’d like to say things have been quieter since then, but yesterday I biked to work for the first time this year, and boy did my butt hurt afterwards!