• 07Apr

    The last of the rocks have been hauled and placed into the beds. It looks so much better back there, now.

    Next steps include planting some seeds, arranging some of the groups of larger stones, and a gutter for the patio cover (and eventually, a rain barrel).

  • 01Apr

    For two years, we went with college kids to the Gila National Forest to do trail construction. We worked on the Continental Divide Trail which goes from Mexico to Canada. It was a great way to spend a few days of work advising students. We hauled a lot of flat rocks to build the trail. One year, the students gave us a flat rock they had all signed. And, the year we got married, they gave us a rock that says “Okay” on it. (Because in the cliff dwellings, places you aren’t supposed to go are marked with a rock that simply says “Don’t” and at a high altitude, we all found that hilarious.)

    These last ~2 weeks have felt like those trips. We saw an ad on Craigslist: a guy in our neighborhood was giving away rocks. The only catch is you had to come get them. These aren’t the flat rocks like we used for the trails, but are almost like river rocks. His large lot has them in corners of the front yard, across the front edge (super nice when guests visit and have rocks instead of grass when getting out of the car). They also run all the way down the left side, all the way across the back, and half way up the right side. In most places the rock beds are 12-15′ wide, but in some places they are closer to 20′. He’s been babysitting people right and left who will come take the rocks. He’s been kind enough to let us come multiple times since we don’t have a truck. Well, this week might be our last trip. The beds I planned and the “gap” past our patio are looking great.

    2015-04-01 09.25.54

    Tubs of rocks. We can fit four in the trunk. We hauled 7 of them on Tuesday.

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    It’s a slow process. It takes me all 4-5 hours to unload all the rocks.

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    The big side is almost done!

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    From this angle, it looks almost finished.

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    But up close, you can see there is much left to do. I think it will take one more trip.

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    The little side is all done. The patch of discolored ones against the fence on the right are all “flat” rocks that will fit under the gate when it swings open.

    We’ve had tons of compliments from curious neighbors. I’ve gotten free rocks (the big stacked ones), free hyacinth seeds (which will climb the chimney), free tools (two sanders, a caulk gun, a vise, and even a croquet set), and met so many of our neighbors. We’re going to put a wisteria in the pot, since it’s “against the rules” to plant it in the ground.

    There will be more pics when it’s finished!

  • 30Mar

    We found a “steal” of a deal on Craigslist. All the rocks you can carry if you’ll just come get them. They are perfect for our landscaping ideas for our tiny space of yard. The project already looks amazing and we have at least 3 more trips of rocks to go get. We weren’t planning on doing this one right now, but when the free rocks popped up, we just couldn’t pass it up. It’s been a lot of work, has burned a lot of calories, and has caused a few scrapes and bruises, but it’s going to be so worth it in the end.

    I’m terrible and never do before pics, but here is some of the progress during and the after pics.

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    during

    2015-03-26 17.23.45 2015-03-26 17.23.55

    after

    These “beds” are just inside our gate between the fence and the slab foundation. The rocks that were there were stepping stones seated into the concrete sludgey stuff left at the end of a concrete pour. They worked fine for ~20 years, but they were starting to break and become a trip hazard. They came up very easily. I wasn’t even planning on taking them up with this project, but it was so easy, I just couldn’t stop. I have also “outlined” two beds out back (past the fence, not in these pictures). Those have a tree and a birdbath. There are also groups of rocks. A large planter will hold hyacinth. And, we plan to get a wisteria to climb the chimney. Those two should bring in the butterflies and hummingbirds.

    So, then, after all our hard work, of course, Murphy has to come visit. There is a plumbing problem. For the second time since we’ve owned this house, it “rained” from the upstairs to the down. (And created a big puddle in the kitchen for the third time, we had a big puddle in the kitchen.) We have a toilet that hasn’t been flushing well, but draining the tub after a bath seems to be more than it could handle; the toilet “belched”. So, tonight, we will seek out a snake and see if we can learn to snake a drain. It’s a very busy week: we need to wrap up the rocks project so we can stop bothering the nice man who lets us come get them for free. We need to go home and deal with my mom and her stuff. We need to do our usual end-of-month stuff.

    So, we decided last night to skip the Luza trip to Dime Box again. Hopefully (still pending Emil’s co-worker’s dad’s condition/status), we’ll be coming back from Paris on that day and would have to get up super early (5:30am?) to leave my grandmother’s in time to make Dime Box by lunch. That’s not fair to us or her.

    Here. We. Go!

  • 14Jan

    I did the vegan thing (pretty strictly) for four years. At the beginning of 2014, I needed a break. I ate many of the foods I had missed. I learned that the things I missed weren’t always the things I thought I would. In late 2014, I got more serious about leaning more to the vegan side. For our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals I had meat on my plate, but all our sides were vegan. While I now allow myself to eat meat when out (chicken wings! eggs Benedict!), I often opt for a vegetarian entree.

    Since June, we’ve been cooking a lot more. I can follow a recipe. In fact, I never leave them as is; I’m always tweaking or changing something. The problem is making carnivore food for him and vegan for me.

    Turning Points

    Over the summer, I discovered Good and Cheap. Leanne Brown is a recipe rockstar!  Since her goal is $4/day eating, many of the recipes are vegetarian; I can easily veganize most of them. I cooked pinto beans and Leanne’s corn bread (from scratch, not Jiffy!). We were both quite satisfied. Bonus: a big batch of beans lasts 2-3 dinners for us, freeing up more time for us. Note: Emil not only enjoyed a vegan meal, he ate it 2-3 days in a row. This is now a rotating staple for us.

    A few months ago, I envisioned three pans on the stove: his, hers, and ours. Think pasta (us), marinara sauce (us), and meat crumbles (him). Or, there is taco night: tortillas, beans/rice, veggies galore, fajita chicken for him, cheese for him, and vegan cheese for me. I knew that if I could think of a couple of simple examples, I could come up with others. I spent a few of our D&D nights brainstorming these combos while listening to game play and waiting for my turn. I came up with ~20 meals that are essentially a bunch of vegan sides with a meat entree for him.

    I’ve always coveted the idea of Once A Month Cooking, but knew I could never pull it off. I don’t think I could even be on my feet that long. Along those lines, a few weeks ago, I started learning about Freezer Cooking. I dove in and made a low-carb/vegan mushroom stroganoff, a white bean stew, and a few others. Over the xmas break, I checked out Don’t Panic Dinner’s In The Freezer and it’s sequel from our library. Those books didn’t have many recipes I could use, but I did learn some great concepts. Last night, I thawed the spaghetti sauce and “neat” balls I made with the first Freezer batch. The “neat” balls crumbled so my sauce gained the texture of a meat sauce. He was eating sausage links, but I had him taste it and we have another vegan winner.

    Now, if anyone ever told me that I’d find two vegan meals that Emil would truly like, I’d have called them a liar. But, I have done it. Now, I’m on a mission to find more.

    All that while…

    Now, I made all those finds/discoveries while learning to do something new. What I’ve always been bad at is menu planning. Well, I practically made that a part-time job so I could figure out how to do this in a way that works for us. I have Pepperplate on my desktop/phone/tablet. I plan ~5 meals. Between leftovers and a social life, that can last us 2-3 weeks. I finally figured out to menu plan again soon after a shopping trip so that I’m always a week/two ahead of the game. That makes the whole thing less frustrating. Oh and this is compounded by our busy schedule. I can shop on Tuesday afternoons or we have to go on the weekend. But, we are eating at home about five nights a week and some weekend meals, too.

    What We Eat

    Here are recent/current/future meals. There are more for me since I’m working at home. Or, those become my dinner “entree” when he eats meat.

    • homemade pizza
    • his/hers chili
    • spaghetti with “neat” sauce
    • pinto beans with corn bread
    • cauliflower bisque (hers)
    • broccoli “cheese” casserole (hers)
    • veggie soup (hers)
    • tacos
    • creamed spinach (hers)
    • mac & “cheese”
    • pot roast (his) with veggies (ours)
    • chicken piccata (his…but man is this one good)
    • creamy cajun pasta, with veggies for me and chicken for him

    Next Steps

    Lower the carbs. This is hard to do in the winter when so many warm dishes are also carb laden.

    • less pasta and more veggies
    • less potatoes and more cauliflower
    • less sweet/starchy veggies and more green veggies

    Get Emil eating more veggies. He has pretty simple tastes, so I can work things into recipes without messing them up for him.

    No one is ever 100% vegan. It’s impossible. However, it’s easy to be 98% vegan. I think I’m about 70-80% right now. I need to get closer to 90%.

    Keep on Pinning. Every week or two I find some new vegan blogger or recipe site. Other people have the stamina to try a recipe several times and tweak it. I can do that once, but not 3+ times. I need to use their work; that’s why they shared it! In fact, the next one I’m going to try is a Mac & “Cheese”.

     

  • 08Jan

    When we moved in, we didn’t hire the painters to knock down all of the popcorn ceilings. We just didn’t want to spend that money on that task at that time.

    Turns out, we chose wisely. Spritz it with water, wait 10 minutes, and scrape it with a putty knife….and it falls to the floor in sheets larger than your hand.

    If I had known then what I know now, I would have scraped all the popcorn upon move-in. Still, I’m glad I started it as as I was nearing the end of  “de-brassing” #DomaLuza.

    It’s a huge change that is easy and cheap. It’s a little time consuming and a lot messy, but really anyone can do this to their own home built after ~1980. (If your home is older, read up on how to take and send in a sample to have it tested for asbestos. You may be either stuck with it or in for a proper abatement.)

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    First and second passes got just about half of the powder room.

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    Except for tiny bits along the crown molding, all if it is down. It’s about as messy as I expected.

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    Voilá! Clean and mostly prepped-ceiling.

    Bonus! While I was in there, I noticed a tiny puddle under the water tank. Yippie. We haven’t seen the plumber in a few weeks, so I guess it was time. Luckily, it was a little DIY project this time (and not a new valve like 2 of the last 3 plumbing calls were)!

    I have finished prepping the ceiling with a little help from Emil (because he’s better at caulking than I am). We have some leftover Kilz I’m going to try to use up. Now, I just need the weather to cooperate so the primer stays warm enough to use.

  • 07Nov

    When we bought #DomaLuza, it was hard to see how much brass there was in the house because the previous owner had so many brass and/or gold colored things among her possessions. Even with all of her things out of here, I couldn’t stand how much brass there was, especially the shiny brass. And no, of course it didn’t even match each other, some of it is was antique brass. De-brassing had to be done!

    The first thing we did was get rid of the brass chandelier in the dining area. We sold it in a garage sale, but I really hope someone painted it black and made it some kind of spooky Hallowe’en decor.

    Next, the front door handle bothered me greatly. Not only was the shiny brass not our tastes, the coating was peeling due to exposure to the elements. Have you priced front door hardware? $200 is the low end! I just couldn’t justify that much to replace something that works just fine.

    I braved the paint aisle at one of the hardware stores and was told that there was no reason I should not be able to paint the brass. In fact, the nice employee showed me a new line of spray paints made by Rustoleum that are made for painting metal and that have modern finishes like satin nickel and oil rubbed bronze. We bought three cans, and I set to work. It took me a couple of days with the Dremel tool, but I removed every trace of coding from the front door set and deadbolt. I sanded it as perfectly as I could manage.

    The spray paint work better than any I’ve ever used. Thus, a monster was born. I then tackled a light fixture and the garish shiny brass powder room accessories that didn’t match the antique brass light fixture. ::sigh::

    Next, I set after the rest of the doorknobs in the house. It’s difficult to hit them from all the funny angles so it takes many layers. It takes cooler temperatures and low humidity to do it well. It’s also hard to live without some doorknobs long enough for them to get painted. So, it’s been a slow process. I have a couple left to do.

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    Before. Brass. Bleargh. (Yes, it’s all scratched up. Additionally, even the builder installed hardware and then painted. #facepalm)

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    After. Ahhhh. So much more modern. So much less garish, even than the antique brass. (Yes, this door is even worse than the other one. What the hell is wrong with contractors?)

    While the next to last set, was sitting in the various stages of painting, turning, and drying, I decided to start scraping the popcorn in our powder room. While up there, I grabbed the light fixture to that room (antique brass, of course) and slathered it in oil-rubbed bronze, too. All of that will be another post for another day.

  • 07Nov

    It’s been a while since we just did a plain old update. So here are some things going on with us.

    • Last winter, we got a new domain. You can now find us at BlueLime.us instead of the longer address. Hopefully, we’ll streamline some of the other stuff, too.
    • At some point last winter, I needed a break from the whole vegan thing. For a while, I ate all the hot wings. :) I really just needed more options and a break from having to think so hard about my food. After a period of going a little nuts, I settled back into a balance. I’m eating vegan meals at least two thirds of the time, I’d guess. I’m working on a greater percentage with meat or dairy as an occasional exception. For example, I’d rather have the best queso in town a few times a year than mediocre queso at places that use too much cilantro. It makes it a lot easier to go out with friends.
    • I finally quit facebook for real. I don’t even have my fake account, anymore. I don’t miss much about it. I’m learning, too, that I was way ahead of the curve; there are a lot of us facebook haters.
    • Last spring-summer, I transitioned out of two volunteer roles. One was simply an expired term. The other was one of those “I’m done” moments. It stopped being fun and others wanted to tell me what to do without ever agreeing to help out (yes, I asked many times). We still participate, but now it’s less.
    • In that vein, I’m still doing the Pareto “diet” that is life. I keep culling the bottom 20% of whatever is sucking the fun out of life. We focus time on the 20% of life that brings us joy.
    • Summer was, apparently, big for us:
      • Emil’s mom fell. She went from a burst vertebrae in her back to the hospital to rehab (and back and forth for a bit) to Assisted Living and is now in Memory Care. She has good days and bad days, but is doing well considering. The “team” of siblings is on top of her care. Emil sees her many Thursday nights when he’s in Bryan for his D&D group. On the nights that they do meet and that I can join him, I go, too. After visiting Mom, he games and I hang out with Jessica or even Angela W.. It’s been nice to have some girl time with old friends.
      • My mom went through some trauma/drama. We went home to help her get through the worst of it. She’s made some progress, but it’s still a problem. We’re waiting until the problem finds a “bottom” so some healing/help can begin. Meanwhile, my grandmother is doing just fine other than worrying a whole lot.
      • We rehomed Marble. He ran off P?kný, disappeared himself for a couple of days, reappeared (I told him “you’re the wrong cat to come back!”), and was still a PITA to Purrrrrl and us. Because he chewed wires, we had to be super careful about what we left where; all cords had to be wrapped. Because he did other damage, we had to live with all the doors closed. We were prisoners in our own home….most of all the girls. So, Jessica offered that if we still didn’t have anyone after her month of travel, she’d try him out. Well, he’s a good fit (thankfully!) and is fat and happy living with her. Interestingly, I had tried to fatten him up, but since Purrrrrl can’t free-feed or have his food, I couldn’t “make” him eat enough to be “slothenly”. Interestingly, he wasn’t gone a week before P?kný came back. She’s still a patio-only kitty and afraid to come inside….but it’s like she KNEW he was gone. He is such an asshole.
      • We also used summer to kick start a few little projects around the house. I’m almost done painting all the ugly brass hardware and hope to start scraping the popcorn off the ceilings, soon.
      • Since early summer, I’ve been cooking like a fiend. I can ~always tweak a recipe to my liking, but never really learned how to menu plan. Having a busy life kept me from learning this. Well, I’ve finally figured out how to plan stuff that Emil will eat, stuff that I will eat, and stuff that we will eat.
    • This fall, we joined D&D Encounters. It’s a hot mess of red tape and I don’t think the Wizard’s of the Coast people gave any consideration to making it easy for new people to join (which is the entire purpose/intent of the series). But, after some bumps in the road, our two (yes, TWO) groups normalized into good groups to play with. It’s also nice to have set plans. Since my Monday CroKnit group and Emil’s Thursday dungeon group are still going strong, we’re booked 4 evenings of most weeks.
    • October was a blast with two Halloween weekends, two parties, and much merriment. Only 358 days until Hallowe’en 15! And, it will be on a Saturday next year. This bodes both for a lot of fun :) and also for all the parties to be on the same :( night. Whatever shall we be this time?
    • As usual, I’m not looking forward to the holidays. In fact, my annual rant is overdue since I’ve already blocked pins/posts about xmas….and warned one family member that I’ll unfollow her until new year’s if she keeps it up.
    • So, we’re ready for late fall and winter and using the fireplace. I suspect there will be several movie marathons and much gaming.

    Happy Fall, Y’all!

  • 03Dec

    We got presents for #DomaLuza on Tuesday! Merry gift-giving time to us!

    The new fridge/dryer/microwave were supposed to arrive between 12noon and 4pm, but they called and asked if they could come early due to some cancellations. So, I hurried to haul all the stuff out of the soon-to-be-old fridge while they worked on the microwave. In less than 2 hours, we had a new set.

    Microwave

    Our cheaply-made refaced cabinets weren’t sturdy enough to support the top bracing (something our other one didn’t have), but Emil found a piece of wood to reinforce the joints and the problem was quickly solved.

    Dryer

    The Home Depot guy gave us all the specs on all the installs but one: he didn’t ask if the dryer was in a garage. Technically, it needs to be on a platform to keep it and the car from being on the same plane. Since we were $6 shy of saving another $100 with our purchase, that would have been an easy add-on. I’d go back, now, and ask them to retroactively add it to our purchase, but I don’t want to get the installation guys in trouble for installing it without. And, after using it just one time, I realize we need some height, so we might build something…maybe.

    Refrigerator

    Oh it’s so pretty! I’m learning how to arrange our stuff differently in the new shape, but it’s a nice unit. We had to call a plumber to come fix the water valve. Today, Emil hooked up the long water line we bought. We’re putting the new fridge along the wall of the kitchen because it’s too big for the nook, so we also have some conduit running along the baseboard. We just need to pull three pitchers of water and three batches of ice to flush all the new out. We turned the pantry back to the cooking side of the fridge. And, some of the “loose” stuff we had in the kitchen are now in the nook that the old fridge left behind. Bonus: I can reach/use those upper cabinets.

    Bonus: Water Test

    Because we agreed to let some company test our water, we’ll get a $20 gift card to Home Depot. Maybe we’ll also find out why our water tastes so bad.

    "they're here!"

    “they’re here!”

    rearranging

    rearranging

    The final setup...for now.

    The final setup…for now.

     

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  • 18Nov

    Relocating the cat box

    Our cats have a “house” for their litter boxes. They go in on the side, but we can remove the top for scooping. We built this setup when we moved to Austin because our balcony at Riata was rails instead of walls…and we didn’t think Sosta or Purrrrrl would go. We also wanted to use the patio, so we wanted to cover them. And, there are rules about what can/can’t be on the patio, so we had to make it look like furniture. It’s been a great box everywhere we’ve lived since.

    When we moved here, the back corner of the shop/laundry area in the garage seemed like the best spot for it. It worked for a while, but it’s just not anymore. We had the idea to add an exhaust fan to it and vent the air from it out the front under the garage door (where there is a gap in the weatherstripping). Emil bought a fan, reducer, and vent hose online. We picked up a jig saw, and in one short afternoon, he assembled it all while I rearranged the rest of the stuff that had been in that spot in the garage.

    It’s funny how moving a few boxes around can change the chi of a space, but it made a huge difference. And it’s just a garage! The cats don’t care much for the sound of the fan, but we think they’ll get used to it. And, it’s on a timer, so if they can hold it, they can avoid it.

    Black Friday comes early

    After the garage was finished, we headed up to our Home Depot for our second appliance-shopping trip. Home Depot started their Black Friday sales way early this year….so people could get their homes ready for Thanksgiving. Since they aren’t making it all Christmassy, I think it’s smart marketing. And, I guess it got Emil’s attention, too, because we bought a new fridge, a vented microwave, and a new dryer. We don’t need them for Thanksgiving, and he’s off a couple of days in early December, so we’re having them delivered on the 2nd.

    The stainless refrigerator is a French Door setup with a huge tray for party platters. I don’t care much about the stainless microwave (they all function the same to me) and I hate the built-in vented kind, but we can’t afford to lose the counter space. The fancy-schmancy dryer is white….and we were about “this close” to getting the matching washer, too.

    How all this came to be is that the microwave will die ~any day. We had hoped it would die while under warranty, but it’s been most of that time and isn’t seeming to behave any worse. It took over 3 minutes to heat a cup of soup today, but it works…it’s just old. The previous owner bought a fridge too small for the space, so it’s digging a hole in the wall and many of the drawers are cracked/chipped from being forced in and out for cleaning. Recently, it started making a growling sound. The dryer takes two cycles most times and it horrifically mangles fitted sheets. So, we figured one would die in the first year, but that hasn’t happened and this is the time of year to buy appliances at good deals.

    We’ll have to switch the fridge and pantry locations in our kitchen. The notch for the fridge is just too limiting. Smaller fridges are actually more expensive. And, even our free-standing pantry that the previous owner gave us is too tall to fit in the nook. We’ll pick up another cabinet at Ikea or something.  It will look a little funny for a while, but if it functions better that is all we care about.

    So, merry early xmas to the cats, to us, and to #DomaLuza

    [I’ve almost given up on the dresser we bought with the idea of turning it into a kitchen island. I just can’t see how I can make that one work. I’m still tinkering with the idea, but we’ll probably have to sell that dresser and hopefully get back our money.]

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  • 12Nov

    As the first cold front moves in , we are winterizing. We’ve already built a couple of fires. But to save money, we’ve opted for wood instead of using the gas that’s in our fireplace. Last night Emil ordered a quarter cord of wood; it will be delivered in the morning. Today I cleaned out the fireplace so that tonight we can remove the gas burner and cap off the gas line.

    I also wrapped all the outside plants in plastic in hopes that that would serve as a greenhouse.

    We also have plans to both vent and relocate the cats’ litter box.

    Busy busy at #DomaLuza !

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