Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Adventure Kitties!

Further proof that I'm a crazy cat lady, as if you needed more! I should be learning my lines for the New Year's Eve show this Sunday with Austin Murder Mystery Players, but I'm procrastinating.

It rained for three days straight here in Austin, which is a rare occurrence. The weather finally dried up yesterday enough to take the kitties outside for a good romp around.

Marigold looks into her magic ball to tell your future. She says, "Yes, I see that there has been joy and pain, sunshine and rain." Oh Miss Mare, you are so wise!

Kenji grows to super-huge size and knocks down a tree! Almost as amazing as the presence of grass in our yard!

Sonic explores ancient ruins. Is that a Mayan temple? No, just the old stairs up to the back door under the lovely, new deck.

We had a nice Christmas. I was busy visiting other people's furry babies while they travel. Chad played "house husband" and kept a steady supply of yummy food and clean house ready for my breaks. It's so nice when the tables turn, and I work while he does all things domestic!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sugarplum Furries

Yesterday, I was a whirling dervish of domestic duty! I cleaned, scrubbed, washed and tidied until my feet and my back cried "Uncle." The cats LOVE when I'm doing projects. They like to watch me running around the house. Kenji even helped me put fresh sheets on the bed. Mostly, they just supervise. They are my little furry sugarplums that bring me comfort and joy.

I did NOT send out Christmas cards to my full list of friends and family this year. (Gasp!) As one friend put it, "do you think they'll even notice?" Forgive me if you noticed.

I have "holiday cheer" deficiency due to the annual onslaught of impossibly high expectations for kindness, consumer spending and general fabulousness of the holiday season. I'm feeling a bit blue and melancholy. I miss my dad, of course, and the holidays emphasize that loss. I am also sad about leaving my position in the pet-sitting business. I will miss my little furry friends so much, but there are things I need to do for myself, for my husband and for my family that demand some time for reflection, some time for travel and some flexibility. I'm looking forward to a period of a few months when my only income will come from my acting work with Murder Mystery Players. (In the past I've juggled two or three part-time jobs at a time which left me feeling frazzled.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One Big Cat Toy

We put up the super kitschy Christmas tree on Friday night. Pre-lit is the way to go, my friends! The cats were especially excited by this latest home decor project. I've made liberal use of the squirter to dissuade them from ingesting too much tinsel. After many years of "real" Christmas trees, we decided to do the environment and my allergies a favor by purchasing this "fake" tree at a post-holiday sale last year at Tape Lenders Video on West 5th Street for 75% off -- score! I dig the glass ornaments. Either by accident or subconscious design genius, I chose the complimentary color palettes of red and green with yellow-gold and purple (jazzes up a tired tradition.) Chad made like Santa Claus a few weeks ago and climbed atop our roof. Finding no chimney to slide down, he strung lights along the roofline instead. 

Sweet Kenji had enough holiday excitement, and climbed into her shopping bag cubby. "Bah humbug. Wake me after New Year's," she seemed to say. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cute to the 3rd Power!

I'm going to retain this blog title and address, but now that most of the house projects are done, this blog will have more sappy weekly reflections and photos to share. If you're looking for the "before and after" house pics, see the September 2006 archives.

On to the cuteness! I went to see my family this weekend. I took lots of pictures, and had a difficult time choosing the best ones to share.

My niece, Mary, age 3, member of Future Heartbreakers of America, picked up lots of ladybugs and tried very hard not to squish them.

Mary and my mom, a.k.a. MeMommy. Yes, her "grandma" nickname sounds like a rapper's name.

Mary with her lovely red locks and me with my new dark hair. I love my dark hair. My super stylist, Monica, at Maximum FX salon rocks!

Charlie, age 10 months, in his holiday suit! Love that hat! He looks like a little elf who escaped from Santa's Workshop at the North Pole.

Christoper, age 6, with Mary and Charlie. I had more pictures of Mister Christopher, but he's in constant motion, and they're all blurred beyond recognition.

I'm happy to report that my mom is doing well under the circumstances. I'm very proud of her. She's learning how to operate the computer, check her email, and how to manage accounts online. Keep her in your prayers and send her happy thoughts.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I'm Thankful for...

my hunky, sweet husband, Chad.

my cozy house and the completion of immediate house projects.

reconnecting with old friends - like Kristen M. who had us over for an amazing Thanksgiving potluck dinner.

new friends - who are fun, and a source of comfort and support.

my three, cute funny cats.

the past two years working as a Furry Godmother pet sitter. I've met so many wonderful pets and people. I've also had a peek at how other people decorate and arrange their houses, which sparked many ideas for my own house.

holidays off from working in 2007 as I part ways very amicably with Furry Godmothers.

time off from working starting in January to be with my mom and my sister and her family. I miss my dad. I know that they do too.

the prospect of new adventures. Losing my dad last month reminds me that I must actively seek to make the most of every day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Driveway's Done, Time to Party!

The interlocking pavers driveway and walkway were completed on Friday morning, November 17! The old driveway was a sad mix of sand and pebbles that sat three inches lower than the concrete carport pad. The old walkway resembled a jigsaw puzzle, not too safe for actual walking as the puzzle pieces shifted precariously with each step.

Before: Ugh.

After: So pretty. So functional.

On Saturday, November 18, we had our big housewarming party. We wanted it to be six months after we bought the house. Our theory was that having the party would force us to finish painting and updating the house. The timing worked out pretty well.

The "candy bar" featured kettle corn, M&Ms, twizzlers, fried apple pies and packaged candy bars. It was a hit! We sent fried pies home with lots of people. Mmm... pie makes a delicious but not very nutritious breakfast for the day after a party.

We went with a fall carnival theme. We had pickles, corn dogs with fancy mustards (yes, I loathe corn dogs, but our guests loved them), nacho fixings, boneless buffalo wings with celery and blue cheese on the buffet spread on the deck. As one friend put it, "the food was spectacular. It was like going to the fair without smelling livestock and worrying about your car getting vandalized."

Chad made funny signs for various doors. This was the sign for the kitty jail / guest room.

The kitty jail. If you look closely, you can see furry lumps: Marigold and Kenji on either side of the bed & Sonic on the chair.

Hot cider with caramel, red hots & cinnamon to mix in. Yum! The idea for hot cider came to me during a manic, Martha Stewart-like episode at the HEB grocery store. I almost made little caramel apple wedges with nuts as garnish for the punch, but I called Chad and told him I needed him to talk me down. Thus no caramel apple wedges with nuts, but I did keep (what's left of) my sanity.

Proof that we have friends. It was so much fun. We have lots of soda, juice boxes and cider leftover to get us through the year! We managed to give away the leftover corndogs luckily.

I'm so happy that all of our immediate house projects are done! I look forward to some serious lounging in our cozy, cute house.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ceilings & Pavers & Cats, Oh My!

Chad busted bootie to get the faux-tin-tile ceilings in the kitchen and bathroom painted this weekend. They look fabulous and hide the cracks. I guess I'll forgive Chad for keeping me up so late Saturday night with his tromping up & down the squeaky step ladder, paint-brushing and general project noise. Yep, we have some wild and crazy weekends here! (See earlier post titled, "New Homeowners Are Boring.")

The interlocking paver stones arrived for our new driveway and walkway. Hopefully that project will be done by this weekend in time for the big housewarming party!

Our kitties love to snuggle. Marigold is at the head of the bed with me, Sonic is in the middle-left and Kenji is at the foot of the bed. The newest feline family member, Sonic, was supposed to be a foster kitty. Of course, Chad & I are smitten with the kitten and are keeping him, rather than adopting him out to someone else. Yes, yes, everyone knew that would happen!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Swab the Deck!

We have a deck! It only took the pros two days to build it. Love it! Love the privacy screen on both sides too. Add "buy deck furniture" to the to-do list.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Rest Easy

We finally have a bed in our bedroom! It is wonderful. Chad and I both love it. There is plenty of room for our insistently cuddly kitties too.

We found another distributor of the Java collection who could special order that lovely but modern sleigh bed (previously mentioned) for us, but it would have taken four months (gasp!) to arrive. So we threw that plan out, and found this simple bed, appropriately named The Simple Bed that was in stock at a local furniture store.

The existing, temperamental sliding closet doors were not very fashionable or functional, so we threw them out in the yard. Really, the old doors are in the back yard. I picked these pretty drapery panels with a sturdy tension rod as the new closet-hider.

Here are some gratuitous shots of our jack-o-lanterns. Chad's is a Charlie Brown head as an homage to The Great Pumpkin. My design features argyles inset with sparkly marbles, reminiscent of my days as a prep-style-pusher at J.Crew.
Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy Thoughts at a Sad Time

My dad passed away suddenly last week at age 58 while exercising on his treadmill. We think he died instantly of either a heart attack or a stroke. My chest literally aches with sadness right now.

I'm very fortunate that my dad came to town and got to see our house last May when Chad & I bought it. My dad kept up with this blog over the past month and praised our progress, and laughed at our foibles. I'm happy that I got to share the experience with him even though he was halfway across the country.

My parents have owned MANY homes over the course of their marriage. (Does anyone know of a good twelve step group to overcome real estate addiction? If so, please let me know so I can find a chapter for my mom to attend.) Dad and Mom worked very hard to make each and every home a showplace. Even homes that we lived in for less than two years got lots of beautifying updates. My dad enlisted my help to rip out wallpaper, hang wallpaper and to hold the light while he crawled around working on projects in dark cabinets and corners. Ripping out and replacing wallpaper with Dad convinced me that no home of mine will ever be cursed, blighted or otherwise besmirched by the presence of wallpaper. I don't care how many magazines say it's back in style, no way! I was very happy when Black & Decker came out with the adjustable snake-light, and I snapped one up to give my dad as a Christmas gift. I didn't have to hold lights anymore! I much preferred to hand Dad tools than to hold the light at just the right angle for what seemed like hours until my little arms shook with muscle fatigue. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic.

Here are some happy thoughts and pictures:

A friend of mine and Chad's sent these gorgeous orchids when she heard about my dad's passing. Many friends have reached out in support, and I very much appreciate each and every email, call, card or kind thought.

Every home needs a gnome. We hope he does not roam! Chad calls him Gnomaste, because he looks like he's doing prayer position and wishing us peace.

Marigold takes time each day to stop and smell the flowers.

The front planter likes all the rain we've been getting.

Our beautiful new underpinning courtesy of Ron from Aaron's Stucco. Ron did a great job and cleaned up his mess -- a total gem of a contractor!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Curses! Foiled Again!

HGTV's website reported that installing faux tin tile ceilings was easy. Just lay out your grid carefully and starting in one corner, glue the tongue and groove tiles up to the existing ceiling. Chad made a fancy computer model of the grid for our tiles. He had about six of the 12 inch by 12 inch tiles up on the ceiling Sunday. It was looking great. I thought, "Wow! He'll finish this room today and maybe even start on the next room." Then I heard a crash, followed by a second crash and the sound of the lid of my favorite, big votive candle clattering on the cold, tile bathroom floor. The tiles fell, taking a wall shelf and its contents with them. Chad walked calmly into the bedroom and took a nap. I've scheduled the handyman. Stupid HGTV.

Our bed that was on backorder, the Java bed, which matches all of our Java bedroom furniture, is in Houston in a warehouse. Storehouse, my favorite furniture store and main distributor of the Java collection, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Storehouse was just bought by a liquidator who plans to close the chain of stores and sell off all assets. Yep, you guessed it, our bed happens to be one of those assets. (Cue the silly sitcom sound effect.) Here's a lovely picture of the bed that will not be mine. Time to find a new bed that won't quiet match our existing furniture.

The man who came very highly recommended to repair our sagging underpinning (the stucco that conceals the pier and beam foundation and keeps various varmits from climbing up under our house and in between our walls) has been telling us for over a month that he'll get to us in "a few weeks." The deck construction can't start until the underpinning repair is complete. The deck guys wanted to start October 10. The underpinning guy is still singing his song with the repeating chorus of "a few weeks." We picked a new underpinning guy at random from the internet to come do the repairs. Let's hope he can have the work done by October 10! Keeping our fingers crossed...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Eternal To-Do List

I remember my days as a renter when weekend days were spent lounging on the sofa with piles of trashy fashion magazines or some actual literature. How I pine for those days. Yes, it's been fun to personalize our house, but even when we rented places, we had the good fortune to rent from men with fabulous taste who had painted and remodeled the spaces in fun and funky ways. In fact, we stole the main wall colors for our 1952 house from our last condo. (Thanks for leaving sample paint buckets at the condo, David!)

Last weekend, Chad and I got away to Dallas for the weekend as a collective birthday present to ourselves. Our birthdays are three weeks apart. It was so nice to have room service (champagne and chocolate covered strawberries upon arrival!) and maid service and already painted walls! We stayed at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Dallas. We needed to be far enough away from the house that we weren't at all tempted to sneak back and do any housework.

This weekend, it's back to the grind, back to the to-do list.
1. Install Chad's Closet Maid system and organize closet.
2. Clean the floor in the Master Bedroom.
3. Put dresser in Master Bedroom and finally unpack all the drawer items.
4. Plan grid for tin tile ceilings in the kitchen and bathroom.
5. Buy materials for tile ceiling project and yard projects.
6. Sign and have notarized waiver for new driveway and walkway.
7. Sign and mail contract for deck installation.
8. Rent wood chipper for all the tree stumps we dug up and all the tree branches we picked up from the yard.
Yeah... I don't know about #8, but we gotta do something with those branches and tree trunks / roots.

Is that purple flower a weed? I can't tell. I've started mowing around them because they're kind of pretty. We have a Neuton mower. I love it. It's cordless, electric and very quiet. The City of Austin Clean Air program gave a generous rebate on these mowers. The UPS guy who delivered mine commented that he was delivering a lot of them. When Chad or I are out mowing, people stop and comment on our nice, quiet mower.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

New Homeowners Are Boring

Yes. I've become one of those people who talks incessantly about house projects, much like a new parent talks about their baby too much. Maybe it's better than coming off as a crazy cat lady by gushing about my fuzzy children all the time. Speaking of, Marigold and Kenji are so cute and funny! Marigold loves to go outside and sniff the sidewalk, but she's only allowed out with Chad or me.

Enough about the fuzzy kids, here are some more before and after shots.

The Office
Before: There is that icky yellow paint again! This is where boxes go for vacation!

During: What a handsome painter!

After: Check out the cozy kitty corner under the windows.

Here's my reading nook with the cheap chandelier.

The Guest Room
Before: What a fabulous view of the fence and truck driving down the street!

After: The completed, lovely guest room with a queen size bed just waiting for an occupant or two. Our guests will have the pleasure of helping us with the vast jungle that we hope will sometime be worthy of the term "yard."

The Master Bedroom In Progress
Here's my teeny-tiny closet. Chad helped me install this closet system. Miraculously, everything but my shoes fit. Maybe I can build another shed out in the yard for shoes.

We finished the paint and installed the custom-order blinds from Lowe's. I love Lowe's. The employees are much more helpful than the people at Home Depot.

Now we're waiting on our bed to be delivered. It's on back-order until October 15th. Sigh...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Progress Slows

On May 19, 2006, Chad and I became first time homeowners of this darling house that needs a lot of love. I like to think we saved the house from its previous, dreaded "rental house" status and from a series of opportunistic house-flippers.

I have grown oh-so-weary of painting, cleaning and arranging for now. Time to post some before and after pictures so I can reflect on the progress Chad & I have made this summer. Maybe it will provide motivation to paint that last room!

The Dining Area
Before - note the icky yellow walls and yucky curtains.

After - alive with color and kitsch!

I love this cabinet. Yes, I would marry it if I wasn't already married to Chad.

The Living Room
Before - the crown trim had this icky yellow sealant all around every room. It HAD to be painted!

After - some color and furniture help.

The Kitchen
Before - not my favorite counter tops or flooring, but we chose to keep it out of budgetary and environmental concerns.

Again with the granny window treatments. (Actually, my grandma, Louise, has much better taste than this!) The pot rack is so 1985. We donated the pot rack to Habitat for Humanity in hopes that someone will use it.

During - the kitchen was the default, messy paint room for a while. Poor kitchen...

After - yes, the walls do glow with an alarmingly radioactive intensity, but Chad really loves the color. I've come to accept it. The white appliances and white cabinets help to diffuse some of the glow.

The Hallway
Before - 14 feet of yucky yellow walls with yucky yellow sealant and cracked ceiling.

After - much nicer color. We used a sand texture paint to hide the ceiling cracks. We chose to hang our black and white photography in the hallway. I found this great rug that magically matches all the colors in the house and that is long enough for the hallway.

The Bathroom
Chad and I lived in a posh condo for just over a year before we bought this house. The condo had two and a half bathrooms. Yes, two and a half! I had my own pristine, pretty bathroom. Chad had his own messy, utilitarian bathroom. Guests had their own cute half-bath on the main level. Unfortunately, our 1952 house only has one small bathroom. Gasp! I decided that if we could only have one bathroom, it needed some beautifying.

Before - gross.

After - so much better. Chad picked out the sink and vanity. I picked the wall color. I think it works. No more rust! We still have to install the tin-tile ceiling to hide all the cracks.