My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Gorgeous Gardens!

Greetings, and welcome to my first post from our new digs! I fear life is still busy chaos (I composed most of this post a couple of weeks ago), and doubt I'll be able to manage reciprocal blog visits or individual comment replies. My apologies. I've added an update at the bottom of this post for those of you who are interested!)

Some of you may recall my Accidental Garden post from "A" week, wherein BW and I stopped during a bike ride to admire a Backyard Wildlife Habitat sign and were generously invited in for a fun tour of the amazing back yard gardens. Well, who says lightning never strikes twice in the same place? We got invited in to tour yet another incredible backyard while riding our bikes downtown one recent Sunday! Granted, this situation was a bit different as this time we already knew our hosts, having met and chatted with them and their dog Annie several times during dog walks when we lived at Dragonfly Cottage. But though we knew them and knew where they lived and that they had a lot of flowers, we had never been to their home before.

So, come on along with us on our tour! I only regret that I can't share the incredibly flower-perfumed air or the sounds of birdsong and whirring hummingbird wings that were an additional and lovely part of being there in person.

This profusion of petunias greets you at the front of the house - a mere hint of what awaits out back!...

What a colorful welcome!

A flower-festooned flower cart that Rod built is the main attraction on the back patio...

Rod made the cart and does most of the gardening. 
He also built their house himself, did all the landscaping, 
is an INCREDIBLE photographer (the man needs a blog!!), 
and was at the kitchen sink peeling beets when we showed up. 
A true Renaissance Man! :-)

The patio and adjoining deck are bursting with flowers in addition to those on the flower cart, including this gargantuan geranium! I took the photo with BW in it for a sense of scale! :-)

Rod and Jane adore birds, and their entire yard and gardens are designed for maximum avian benefit. They've planted many trees over the years, have multiple birdbaths, bird houses and various kinds of bird feeders (I can't even remember how many hummingbird feeders Jane said are spread around the property, but noticed half a dozen without trying), and the flower selections are made with the birds in mind. Most of them attract hummingbirds (especially the Red Birds in a Tree), while the sunflowers are planted to feed the seed-eating birds. Of course, butterflies and other pollinators enjoy it too!

Here's an overview photo of part of their main backyard garden, which also includes some vegetables interspersed with the flowers for everyone's dining pleasure...

A feast for the senses as well as for tummies!

This garden is definitely ready for its closeups, but first there is someone you need to meet. For as we know from Artie on our Accidental Garden tour, every good garden tour requires the assistance of a Canine Tour Guide and this time we were accompanied by Annie...

Sweet, pretty Annie, eager to get going

And now, some of the stars of the garden that made me gape, gasp and gawk. I've identified the ones I know (or that Rod told me), but mostly I'm just going to stop gabbing and let you enjoy all the beautiful eye candy...


A gregarious and glorious gang of blooms!
Back to front (more or less):
Red Birds in a Tree, Purple Coneflower (echinacea),
red poppies, brown eyed Susans

Sunny Sunflowers

A red Sunflower
shot through a gap in some sunflower leaves

Cosmos and Zinnia

Hot Papaya Echinacea 

Zinnia and friends

I took far more photos, but Annie seems to be saying...

"Good grief, haven't you seen and photographed enough?
They're flowers, not kibble, so what's the big deal?!"

Our grateful thanks to Rod, Jane and Annie for their hospitality, a fun evening spent in their beautiful gardens, and the invitation to return and take more photos (next time of the hummingbirds!) :-)

Meanwhile, get a gander at more gee-whiz photos at...

Quick personal update: For those of you following our new home construction/moving odyssey, all I can say is thank goodness I prepared a few ABC Wed/SkyWatch Fri posts when I still had a life. We closed on the new house last Friday afternoon, and though various contractors still need to do various things to it (plus landscaping), we did some cleaning that day and started moving our stuff that weekend. The movers moved our heavier pieces of furniture on Monday morning, and that afternoon we got our phone/internet/tv switched over and had all the construction flotsam and jetsam cleaned out of our ductwork. We and the dogs spent our first night in the house Monday, moved the last of our belongings over here last night and are heading back to the rental this morning to clean it, then have to mow the lawn and shampoo the carpets tomorrow so we can hand over the keys on Friday when the lease is up. 

It's been Africa-hot here all week - 100ยบ + nearly every day (argh! I need window treatments in the worst way, but how can everything be a priority?!), and of course having to concentrate on moving and now cleaning the rental, the new house is in quite a bit of disarray with most of our belongings still in boxes, and a great deal of time squandered searching for things. You know how it is - you start out all organized, packing things tidily and by category, well wrapped and labeled. By the end you're just throwing things in wherever they'll fit, and if that means your shampoo gets packed with your garden spade and waffle iron in an old box labeled "bed linens," well so be it! :-) Anyway, we need to get the rental out of our hair and get our fence and landscaping done (deadlines and dogs necessitate it be done speedily!) and get this house in some sort of order while still working around painters, plumbers, electricians, and tile-layers. I have a few mostly-completed meme posts in the hopper, but have no idea when I'll have time to resume my regularly scheduled blogging and blog visiting. Thanks for bearing with me! (And please, if I mention possibly moving again any time in the next five years, please just shoot me!) 

Have a great weekend (and happy Labor Day to my compatriots!)

Friday, August 24, 2012

SkyWatch Friday: Elementary, my dear!

The sun sets behind the interesting roofline on the front entrance of Highland Park Elementary School, across the street from our brand new house (which we close on today and move into on Monday)...

And it's about to also set on summer vacation as a new school year starts Monday. Like any kid, I hated to see summer vacation end, but at the same time I loved school and so was always excited to begin a new school year. Because my dad was in the military we moved frequently, so in addition to new teachers, books, school clothes and supplies, a new school year often meant a new house, new school, new adventures and new friends. Exciting stuff! And though I'm well past school age, it's an interesting coincidence that the start of this school year coincides with another move into a new house, where I plan to continue to learn new things, have new adventures and make new friends. And so the exciting stuff of a new school year continues. :-)

For more exciting stuff, visit...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Foals

On a recent Sunday morning we drove out to the ranch where our horse Mocha has been boarded since we moved to town last year, to visit him and take our dogs on a hike. Our plan to visit Mocha was Foiled when we Found he'd been moved to a new pasture but no one was around who knew where to Find him. But our trip there wasn't a total Failure - it was a Fabulous day, we enjoyed a Fantastic hike, and I had great Fun photographing these Friendly, Funny, Fetching Foals...

A Fun Face-off with the Fotographer ;-)

"Feeding time is my Favorite!"

All the poor Foal on the left Felt like doing was Finishing his Forty winks in the sun, but his Feisty little Friends Fussed with him relentlessly...

After several Futile attempts to Fend them off, he Finally Forfeited his nap and got to his Feet. But not before giving me a Frustrated look that seemed to say...

"Do you see what Foalishness I have to put up with?" :-)

(very Funny!)

Don't be Foolish, go Frolic among the Fs at this week's

Monday, August 20, 2012

House Update: Chaos Theory

I haven't heard any clamoring for a house update despite my failure to provide one in a month, so either everyone is being incredibly patient and understanding, or completely uninterested. :-) In either case, I feel compelled to post an update. I haven't provided one in so long for a few reasons, chief among them the fact that things have been happening on the house much faster than I can document them on my blog; we've been far too busy (the non-house related posts I've managed to publish lately were already in the hopper or were quick - and therapeutic - to put together); and frankly, for much of the past few weeks the house project has been an unrelenting source of stress, frustration and aggravation and though it consumes our thoughts, time, energy (and money!), I haven't felt like talking about it, never mind blogging about it till now. Here's a short list of recent major frustrations and setbacks:

1) Several things, big and small, should have been finished by now but aren't, were finished but were done incorrectly and have to be re-done, or were done correctly but then damaged (contractors seem to damage and destroy things almost as fast as they build or install them!) and require repair or replacement;

2) A significant cost-overrun that blindsided us (thank goodness our lender was willing and able to finance most of it), and two delays on our closing date (so far);

3) A vacation our General Contractor insisted on taking during the most critical week of the project (the week of the majority of electrical and plumbing installations, carpet installation, most of the repairs and finishing touches, the Occupancy Inspection that has to be passed in order to close on schedule, and of the closing itself! And no one seems to know when he plans to return, including his father who was appointed - apparently against his wishes - as acting GC);

4) A failed Occupancy Inspection on Friday due to a stupid plumbing snafu that has since been rectified but resulted in another delay - the second inspection is scheduled for today and failure is not an option!);

5) A landscaper we'd lined up months ago, but who has never acknowledged a single email we sent him, requires multiple phone calls and the passage of multiple days before he returns any, and who stood us up yesterday (and wasted precious time) not once but TWICE! He's fired before we've even gotten started, and we're in a schedule crunch on our landscaping like we are on everything else.

Anyway, that's most - but not all - of it, and perhaps you can understand now why I haven't been up to blogging about it (and why we never, ever intend to build a house again!) At least BW was on vacation last week (don't know how we'd have handled everything if he hadn't been), but now it's over, the week ahead is going to be as hectic and stressful as the last one was, our contractor is still MIA, and we're scheduled to close on Friday at 1pm with the movers coming a week from today to move our heavy furniture and appliances. I was naive to ever think that when you built a new house, it would be finished when you paid for it at closing and were handed the keys! We'll still be contending with contractors of all stripes after we've moved in, plus the landscaper. Let's just hope the housecleaning people have already done their job by then, because no one can make a mess quite like a contractor. I've known drunken frat boys who were tidier!

In spite of it all, I must say the house is going to be beautiful. It's very well-built (our contractor has frustrated us at times, but he's an awfully skilled builder and a truly nice guy) and I think we'll be very happy there, once we've kicked the last sub out and taken several very long naps! :-) But you'll have to wait for the pretty pictures... here, instead, is how things were looking during the bedlam last week...

After the painters had finished Wednesday night, we knew the plumbers, electricians and HVAC guys would be descending on the place Thursday morning, but were told they wouldn't be starting till around 9am. So we showed up at 8:30, armed with a vacuum and dustmop in the vain hope we'd be able to get most of the sheetrock chunks, screws, etc cleaned up before several pairs of workboots ground them further into the new flooring. So imagine our dismay when this sight greeted us on our arrival!...

I couldn't fit all the trades' vehicles in this photo, 
they extended even further up the street!

Enter at your own risk and I'll give you a taste of what was lurking inside....

Go ahead and ring our fun doorbell ~ it was hooked up to the grid that day :-) ... 

Before we begin, I'll warn you that although you'll get to see a few of our interior paint colors in these photos, some of them don't look very accurate, at least on my monitor. Like in this living room photo, where the walls appear yellow but are actually beige. Wall color notwithstanding, here's what the living room was looking like when we showed up...

Steve (HVAC) hooks up the gas fireplace 
while Chance (an electrician) installs a light switch

And in the master bathroom...

Tom (plumber) hooks up the plumbing to one of the sinks

Bless her heart, despite the fact it was likely to be further abused, Marla (one of the painters and one of my favorite people working on our house) was touching up some of the paint. I'll be seeing a lot more of Marla in the days (and weeks) to come!...

Marla touches up paint by the patio door off the living room
while Kurt (carpenter) installs our kitchen cabinet hardware

As is usually the case, the kitchen is the most popular room in the house for everyone to congregate, even when it isn't finished...

Coulter (electrician), Steve (plumber), Kurt (carpenter), 
Brian (our contractor's dad & acting GC), Dean (electrician)

By the following day (Friday), even BW had joined the kitchen crowd!

BW, Steve (HVAC), unknown plumber, Fred (city inspector)

This is what our poor kitchen island looked like after everyone left for the day on Thursday!...

The garage didn't look much better, though it's a lot emptier and tidier than it has been...

This next photo almost inspires an "everything but the kitchen sink" line (except that it's a bathroom sink), but really it reminds me of a Picasso painting. The kind where a woman has a guitar where her nose should be. Because this bathroom sink (which was supposed to have come with the pedestal, but didn't) was left in our living room while we wait for the missing pedestal to show up, like a rather surreal decorating statement...

So much still has to be done that I can't even begin to list it all, lest I burst into tears. But at least we haven't completely lost our sense of humor...

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules! We got nailguns!

The exterior isn't finished yet: we're still waiting for a capstone to be installed on the stone wall/bench on the porch, a replacement panel for the damaged garage door that we've been waiting for since JUNE along with the correct window grilles (the painters finally decided they'd waited long enough and painted the door on Friday, despite knowing they'd just have to do it again later)!, and the decorative corbels ~ of which there is still no sign ~ that go in the house gables, but here's how it looked as of Saturday...

The red dumpster is supposed to disappear today. Yay!

And that's the last photo you're likely to see of the new house for a while. I plan to wait for the "reveal," when the place is furnished and decorated and I can give you the grand tour. I'm hoping (optimistically probably), for December!

Meanwhile, I'll try to provide verbal updates as necessary along with Herculean attempts to keep up with my ABC Wednesday and SkyWatch Friday posts. Please wish us luck on passing today's make-up inspection, making our Friday closing and getting moved, on finding a new landscaper, and on not throttling anyone in the meantime (good thing we're non-violent vegans!) :-) Our new address takes effect Monday, and if I've failed to provide you with it and you want it, please let me know. Our internet is supposed to be connected and transferred that same day - please wish us luck on that, too! Blogging - and Margaritas - are my versions of Valium!) :-)

Friday, August 17, 2012

SkyWatching Critters

Most of my critter friends enjoy a little Skywatching! :-)









(identity protected by the Witness Protection Program:
Birdfeeder Theft Division)

And husbands...



And enjoy skywatching with some critter friends of your own!


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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