Monday, June 28, 2010

CMR Update June 27

Made the weekly visit with the camera over to our CMR (cool mid-century renovation) to snap some pics of the progress. Amazingly enough - the hole got bigger. There's a cavernous pit underneath the house now and with another week's digging (or less) they ought to start getting to work on removing the old foundation so that the house will just be balancing on three large steel beams. An engineering trick extraordinaire. Can't wait.

Henry does what boys do in construction sites. He rides the machinary. He also managed to come home with his pockets full of pieces of concrete from the old walls, a couple of stones and a fairly old door knob that didn't come from our house as it is now.

The used-to-be location of the stairs leading from the garage to the kitchen. That would be a loooong step down, so I'm hoping that the door was blocked off from the upstairs. If not, I hope that my GC's insurance policies are up to date.

Nearly all dug out to the back corner where Henry's bedroom will be.

Can you imagine a "media room" here? I've seen the plans, I know it goes there, but I can't envision it yet. And, while I'm on the subject, since when did "family rooms" morph in to "media rooms"???

That red paint will be where my laundry room will go. Frankly, since having to do my laundry in the communal laundry area, I am beginning to covet this room most of all. I day dream about just having to clean my own lint traps and having the luxury of leaving my clothes in the washing machine until I am just-damn-good-and-ready to move them.

The view from the "media room" to the "pool room" (the one that we designed, but don't have an actual pool table to put in there - but that didn't stop us from creating the space for it) and out to the garage doors. And yes, the garage doors slide side-to-side like barn doors. Just another nifty feature of our cool mid-century modern house. One that we will keep.

And so, our regular meetings with our project manager begin this Wednesday. He will be providing me with the schedule for completion - which unbeknownst to him - I will begin to etch in stone. Hell hath no fury than an ex-project manager with too much time on her hands. I love a good excel spreadsheet!!

In other news - neighbor has called to complain about the workman parking in her driveway. So, it's three weeks of construction and only two minor complaints. We're doing ok so far.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thinking Outside the Box

Had a nice conversation with an old friend on the phone last week. Her husband is working with (around?against?in conjunction?) with BP to try to wrap their heads around the massive problem with a leaking oil pipe. Seems they keep trying lots of things to solve the problem. And, they're not having a whole lotta luck.

My friend believes that they have the wrong folks thinking about the problem. Me? I think she's really on to something.

I suggest a new executive committee to look at the problem. This executive committee would consist of some of the greatest minds in modern history. A group of people who have had oodles of experience with leakage in the broadest of senses. A group of women. Woman who from the age of 12 or 13 have spent countless hours contemplating the problems associated with absorbency.

While your every day common-woman is probably sufficient, I suggest recruiting women from specifically Proctor & Gamble, Playtex and Kotex just for some added professional oomph. Honestly. Now here are some ladies who have spent countless hours of deep thought and scientific analysis on how to stifle a flow.

And yes, my little mystery solving friends, my friend recommended nothing short of a tremendous tampon. A brilliant and masterful solution.

No this is not a viable long term solution. But then, tampons were never designed for long term use. Their design is simple, effective and biodegradable. They only last a determined length of time so that the user can go swimming or wear white pants. All the design gurus from these illustrious queens of industry gotta do is configure a sanitary product of the right size (think Washington monument) that will absorb the flow for several hours. The tricky part is designing the exterior case / applicator so that tampon's trip down many thousands of feet of sea water does not result in a ginormous spongy triangle the size of your everyday pyramid. I am sure that they can think of something.

Once the Tamponator is inserted, the BP engineers can swoosh down there and cement a lid on the top of the pipe. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

Women have been doing this for years. Women are also know for their ability to solve any household maintenance problem with a coffee cup and a kitchen knife. So frankly, if the BP engineers can't get their mind around how to affix the final cap to the top of the pipe, I am sure we can all rummage through our own junk drawers and come up with something. Duck tape is always a favorite. Perhaps some combination of duck tape and WD40?? Don't know for sure, but let's get some of the gals together and solve the problem.

After that, we can all take some Midol, sit back and crack open a box of See's caramels. Every one's a winner.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


George The Chili King Restaurant, Des Moines, Iowa

Some things you just can NOT make up.
Some times you realize that you've been a lot of places, but there's still a great deal to see.
And gratefully, some of the things you see are just. damn. funny.

George the Elder just returned from a trip to Des Moines Iowa. I've never been, but I'm telling you I had to get up and get a kleenex to wipe the tears from my face I was laughing so hard during his description of the things he saw - - well, now I just gotta get me there.

The only question is - who knew? Des Moines? Who knew...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When we were little

When the boys were small, filling up their days when school was not in session was a walk in the park.

You tossed some legos in their direction. You sat their happy butts down in a pile of dirt or a mound of sand or some other substance that they could drive a truck through or fill a bucket with or eat. They would happily get on their scooters and scoot up and down a one-block piece of sidewalk without noticing that they had been up and down that same block about seventeen thousand times. And you could literally take them for a walk in the park. Ease peezy lemon squeeezy.

Now. Not so much.

The good news is that camp is just around the corner. Five glorious weeks where they frolic in the sun of New Hampshire. No electronics. No TV. No i-pod touches. No computers. No Call of Duty. Bliss for them. Bliss for me. But now. Well, now I'm struggling to figure out what to do with them (make them do) that doesn't involved electronics or sitting on their asses (they have asses now - not butts).

Many of their friends are involved in the myriad of day camps (basketball, soccer, art, drama, whatever) so they aren't readily available for the play date thing. Then again, even if there are more of them over here - I couldn't exactly just boot them out of the house like my mom used to do when we were young. Well, I guess I could boot them out of the house, but then they would just sit on the sidewalk twiddling their thumbs in little gameboy motions, occasionally scratching their heads wondering what they hell they were supposed to be doing.

Tragically, in this day and age of parenting and child rearing our children are missing that particular aptitude of "occupying themselves" that we were darn pretty good at as ankle-biters. I don't think the thought of me being kidnapped or molested while out about in the wild wild world of small-town PA ever once crossed my mother's mind. Now, it's something parents think about. Even if we rationally know that our children have a higher probability of being killed in a vending machine accident - it's still there niggling us in the back of our minds. And, just as importantly - it niggles every other set of parents I know. No longer can kids head out the door to find the rest of your neighborhood buds just waiting for someone else to get booted out of the house for the afternoon too. And so, as parents we are forced to plan. To entertain. To pay for activities.

There are days when I have simply demanded that they shut off all things that require power. The last time I did this, I needed to specify that "power" also included batteries and solar power. As a moth is drawn to flame, my boys are drawn to electronics. Especially those that produce sports scores or allow them to kill things with simulated automated weapons. They did manage to occupy themselves with a minimum of gritching, but it's not the same. They aren't outside building forts out of stolen building materials only to have them infested by giant grasshoppers. They aren't stealing change from the bottom of my purse and then making their own way a couple of miles away to the local Dairy Queen. If they are building something, they are using pristine shipping boxes and rolls of brand new masking tape. If they are getting Dairy Queen its because I have driven them there.

Am I being nostalgic both for the unfettered life we led as kids - and perhaps even for the little babies that my boys used to be (and the simpler - but in it's own way exhausting - entertainment requirements)? Or is this just a complex sort of whining? Cause beyond bowling and putt putt - I'm stumped for what to do with two boys too big now to spend time in the park entertaining themselves in a pile of sand?

Sounds like whining to me. Someone call the Whaaaambulance.

Friday, June 18, 2010

CMR Before and Now

Pretty little mid-century modern before the start of the remodeling....

The pretty little mid-century modern day 8 of construction. Note giant steel beam that have been thrust under the house. According to the GC, "These are important!"

They are now what hold the house up.

Pretty little inner courtyard before the start of remodeling. So, mid-century. So walk-able. So person-bearing.

Pretty little courtyard gone daddy gone. Now we have a big, big, giant pit...

I tried the key in the front door to see if I could get inside and take some photos from the main rooms of the house down to the extravagant excavation in the soon-to-be lower level - but I learned something new about holding a house up today. When they insert the gargantuan steel beams that the house is now resting on - they level it. Since the house has been settling since 1949 - it wasn't exactly level in it's prior condition. Now the house is level, but the doors don't open. Well, technically they DO open, but once opened you wouldn't get them closed again with out some serious effort. Contractor says best to just get in and out of the house via ladder in prodigious pit. I will leave that to him.

Many truck-loads of dirt have been removed. I am starting to get a better visual of how much space we will have down there when it is finished. Too cool. So remodel-y.

I want it to be done now. I have been informed by GC that the digging is the easy and fast part. The pouring of many layers of concrete is the boring and long and impatient part. The building department must come out and inspect each pouring. Sometimes they are delayed.

I will say this much. Upon issuing of our building permit - we realized that we paid the city of SF an amount that would buy two fully loaded Kia Fortes. Not a trivial sum. For that kind of money (for doing virtually nothing, but being a pain in my proverbial ass) I expect them to live in the unfinished basement (aka the dirt filled hole) of our cool mid-century remodel during the entire duration of construction. It's the least that they could do.

For now, we just Dig. Dig. Dig. I will come up with a nefarious plan to deal with the building department later. Any suggestions??

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not Spike Jonze

(click on the photo for the video)

The last week of school, the 7th graders spend a week studying Islais Creek, a local watershed. The area is quite polluted so the class came up with idea of creating some youtube videos to raise awareness.

And while George the Younger was "music director" for his group's couple 'o minutes long debute, I'm thinking that they had more fun making the video than actually pointing out the problems and solutions of the Islais Creek. What was up with the weird photo booth photos, I haven't got a clue - but surely it seemed creative to them.
Alas...such is the last week of school...

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Team Plays On....

George the Younger's baseball team, the SF little league Angels, emerged victorious on Sunday afternoon as the Junior Division Champs! What a thrill.

They played the Cardinals. They had faced the Cards 7 times during the season. They beat them 3 times. They lost 3 times. They tied one. It was an amazing competition for both teams. They were evenly matched in both batting and fielding skills. So, it was with great celebration that in the last game of the season, the Angels came out on top.

The playoffs are double elimination so the last games were crucial. They beat the Cards handily in their first play off game. They were summarily crushed by the Cards in the first game of the finals. A brutal battle that lasted until complete darkness last Thursday with a final score of 14 to 9. The Angels were not feeling so great after that one.

But on Sunday, with clear sunny skies and lots of wind, the Angels took the game in an amazing victory winning 15-5 with the game called at the bottom of the 6th by the mercy rule. To say that they played well against their most fierce adversaries of the season would be an understatement. They kicked some serious baseball butt.

The photo montage...

This is a GREAT photo of the perfect strike. Ball in George the Younger's glove. Look of sheer frustration from the batter.

The Younger in his trademark batter's poise. Truth be told, he got walked three times yesterday, but they were great at bats. First two going full count. Wish I had had the camera on Thursday night, as he had the most beautiful bunt ever! Placed perfectly and beat out to first. Runners advancing in the perfect storm. He's fast as lightening, so he is known for his bunt. They were on guard yesterday for this yesterday. His friend, Jordan, was playing catcher for the other team. They were on the same team last year so Jordan knows well and good that he needs to be ready.

The happy face of a winner. The BEST smiler I know.

Second trophy of the week. First for being the team with the best season record. Now for winning the division. We have more gold painted plastic than I care to think about! Coach Bob called him the "Team Anchor". He played catcher for the most innings of any player he's had. Always there, always in the game, always reliable.

And, the team photo. They were down two key players yesterday, but still managed to pull together. Great effort - and man, oh man, were they happy!!

The Tournament of Champions starts on Friday night out in the burbs of Marin. There are five games, all single elimination. George the Younger's team won his Majors division last year, but were knocked out in the first round of the TOC. We're keeping our fingers crossed that they will make it further this year.
So, the Division is done, but the team plays on. Keep your fingers crossed for the Angels!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The difference

Recently, I reported that I watched with much pride as Shannon received her MFA in Landscape Architecture from RISD. Since that time, you would be surprised at the number of people that have asked me if I will hire her to design the landscaping for our cool mid-century remodel. You know...keep it in the family and give her a job and all that. And, I'm not the only one that gets asked questions like that. She does too. Will you do my garden? Will you design a layout for my backyard? What plant works better in partial shade??? And so I thought perhaps a little clarification was necessary.

Before I do the clarification, I must embarrassingly admit that I also didn't truly understand the role of a landscape architect until fairly recently. I thought she was paying a great deal of money learning to do garden design, but on a really really ginormous scale. You know... planning the landscape for something like Golden Gate Park, as opposed to deciding whether annuals or perennials were the way to go on your back patio. Ah, no. Turns out that's not AT ALL what she spent a lot of money learning.

I better understood her major after I had gone to the exhibition for her masters class. I looked at the projects. Frankly, most didn't make any sense to me (a few were highly theoretical and design-y and just sorta weird) - but some did. Shannon's did, but I wonder if that's just because I know her and she was there to explain it to me like I was five. There were a few where the materials used on the boards were just plain frightening ("trees" made of twisted wires in a real Tim Burton-esque manner for example). But it turns out that the trees are twisted wire, because the actual architectural design doesn't have much of anything at to do with actual trees and plants. Just sometimes where the trees and the plants should be. The projects were about taking exterior space (like entire marshes or malls or large public spaces) and making it better on a GRAND SCALE. It's more about....well, here's the wikipedia definition:

Landscape architecture is the design of outdoor and public spaces to achieve environmental, socio-behavioral, and/or aesthetic outcomes. It involves the systematic investigation of existing social, ecological, and geological conditions and processes in the landscape, and the design of interventions that will produce the desired outcome. The scope of the profession includes: urban design, site planning, town or urban planning, environmental restoration and recreation planning; visual resource management; green infrastructure planning and provision. A practitioner in the profession of landscape architecture is called a landscape architect.

And still - perhaps that definition is a little vague - a little confusing - a little - I don't know - above my intellectual pay-grade considering my non-design background and/or understanding.

Suffice to say - she will NOT design your back yard. She will NOT be able to tell you whether a particular ground cover will enhance the curb-appeal of your nifty mid-century modern rehab. She will conceptualize and design great grand places like parkways or malls or marshes or sports stadiums or watershed facilities or ecological designs or a whole bunch of other stuff. But, not your backyard (unless your backyard happens to be the historical mall in Washington DC). Instead, she will do stuff like this....

Does that help??? Probably not.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Willie and Joan

There I was yesterday morning. Strolling through the hood, walking my sweet dog Otto, enjoying the momentary sunshine and then suddenly - Holy Cat Attack Batman!! We turned a corner and out from under a green leafy shrub emerged psycho-bastard-cat-from-hell! Satan Cat whose sole mission was to attack both Otto and I in a frenzied hissing, biting, scratching spitting whirlwind assault.

At first the whole thing caught me entirely off guard. Really? A cat? Attacking a dog? What's up with that. But it rapidly became apparent that this beastly blood-thirsty feline wasn't interested in just one quick swat with the paw. She had some ancient score to even. I was spinning around, swearing loudly using words I didn't even know I knew, trying to get Otto and the cat separated! I even kicked the diabolical creature a few times just trying to get her to BACK-OFF. She flew in the air, landed on the fricken cat paws and kept coming right back at us. A relentless hissing, spitting, clawing, biting tasmanian devil of gray fur.

Finally, the devil cat's owner emerged from her apartment and managed to corral the frothing beast. Heart racing, hyper-ventilating, I looked down and saw blood all over Otto. I immediately searched for the source only to find it was MY blood. Gushing from a puncture wound on my left hand. It wasn't until later when I also discovered two large bite wounds on my left thigh. The adrenaline was obviously flowing :) As for Otto? Amazingly unscathed. I don't know whether that now makes me happy or wishing I had some kindred spirit with which to share my own misery...

Beelzebub's owner was highly apologetic and fetched me a washcloth and some peroxide. I mean, she's not the one who blitzkrieged me. Just her untamed wilder. I said all was well - my heart was starting to pound a little less fiercely and the blood flow was staunched. I thought that was the end of it. I just wouldn't go near her corner anymore. Ah, no. That's not quite the way it worked out.

Two hours later, my little puncture wound starts to inflate. At first, not alarmingly so, just a little red, a little puffy. Talk to friend who says to call doctor. I baulk and then call. Dr. clears schedule to fit me in. I leave George the Younger at home watching all-things-sports on his first day post school year 09-10. Tell him I'll be back in just a couple of hours. Gotta pick up some antibiotics and then head to the grocery. I saw him again at 9:00 that night.

Quick synopsis: See Dr. #1 she says, "ooh that's not good. we'll get you some antibiotics." Confers with Dr #2 who says, "Oooh this is more than not good. we will send you across the street to the emergency room. Must do IV antibiotics. Possible overnight stay in hospital" Head to Emergency room. Dr. #3 says "ahhh, cat bites are very dangerous. we'll get you a prescription for some antibiotics and send you on your way. You know those regular doctors, they don't like blood or puncture wounds." Drs. #3,4 and 5 say "Holy CRAP!! This is a big big problem. We will now do IV antibiotics, lots of other shots, and RABIES shots." They get the final say, apparently.

So, I was infused, I have one infusion blow-out so technically I was infused twice. I got about 10 little shots of antibiotics in my already swollen hand. I did not cry. I really really wanted to. Dr. was from Pittsburgh, so he suggested I look away while he was doing his work and talk about the burgh. Conversation went like this:

"I grew up in GREEEEEEEEEENSBURG (holy crap that stings...). My mom's family was from Mt. LEEEEEEEEEEEEEbenon (holy shit that stings). I used to shop at the Monroeville mAAAAAAAAAAAAAAl (please, for ALL that is holy stop putting that flipping needle in my hand!!!!!!)

Now isn't that pretty???? A hand goiter. Gross.

Next came the rabies shots. Good news? You don't get them in your stomach any more. Bad news? No matter where you get them it hurts like a sonovabitch. Lucky me. Only 4 more to go. Yes, the treat is that I get to hie myself over to the ER 4 more glorious times while reliving the attack of the feral cat. I hate cats.

And finally, I got some other kind of shot in my rump. Actually I got two of them. Simultaneously. Seriously. Simutaneously. Two nurses. Two large hypos. Two ass cheeks. On the count of three. It was painful, odd and hilarious at the same time.

I have penned a letter to Wild Ass Attack Cat's mom. I thought about suggesting the many ways in which I would like to physically harm her animal. But, in the end I am just asking that she pay my expenses. Let's see what she does. I did include the above photo just in case she thinks I'm making the whole "swollen" part up.

And, that, my friends, was the day yesterday. Like I said, Holy Cat Attack Batman!

Oh, and I came home to find out that Otto has fleas. Sigh.....
PS - the title of this entry are the real names of the mean cat and his owner.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Today is the first day of construction for our nifty mid-century remodel!! (Imagine a band playing something lively and celebratory!!) I have already gotten one call from the homeowners association to let me know that the porta-potty is in the wrong location and must be moved IMMEDIATELY. We are off to an auspicious beginning. But, we ARE beginning and that is the important part. The fun part of today. The best part in the process so far.

After a heck of a tussle with the building department, which was a life lesson illustrating a huge vast void of human intellectual capital, we got our building permit yesterday. Should we be grateful that the whole process took 6 months? Maybe this is considered speedy when you consider that most of the people that I had the opportunity to talk to would never be described as peppy, spunky, ambitious or motivated. Nope, I think that we've found the missing link between man and sloth. The San Francisco Building Department. Eureka!

But, now is not the time to focus on the past - we will now turn our heads to the future and get the show on the road.I intend to remain hopeful that all will go as promised, scheduled and planned. I am not a fool. I understand that the chances of things going as promised, scheduled and planned are slim to none. I just want to live in my fantasy land for as long as I can.

For those of you (and that is many) that have done home renovations where you have experienced delays, GC's who leave the country with your money, had your kitchen cabinets installed upside down and your drain pipes installed without drainage - - I understand your need to let me know all about it. You know - -helping me manage my expectations and all. I am not a fool - reiterated for the second time.

I fully embrace that over the next 7 months (and yes, I understand that this will be more like the 100 year war than my disillusioned 7 months) there will be issues. There will be problems. There will be frustration and the desire to use their own power tools on them in ways for which they were never designed. I know all that.

But for today - just today - when all I had to deal with was a porta-potty located in the wrong place in eyes of my draconian home-owners association - I am going to be happy, and hopeful and thrilled that the dream is finally underway. I am going to hold on to that dream at least for a day or so - - perhaps just until this afternoon when they break through our load bearing wall and the whole house collapses.

But for now? Why dwell??? Jump!

Living the life

Seems that while I was away celebrating all things graduation, George the Younger was taking advantage of the 7 minutes of sunshine that has graced San Francisco this Spring.

According to George the Elder, the arms are covered so that he could even out his baseballer's tan. Otto seems to be on board with the whole use-me-as-a-pillow concept.

Ah, a boy and his dog (and two t-shirts and an ipod). An American classic.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

As a Peacock....

I've been MIA for a while. Been busy doing general stuff - mostly things that just make up the little moments of life that makes it happen.

But sometimes, we have moments in our life that are BIG. Transitions from one step to another. Children achieving their dreams that even you could not imagine for them when they were small. This weekend I'm in Providence to witness the graduation of Shannon from the Rhode Island School of Design. All her hard work culminated in the ceremony today when she received her Masters of Landscape Architecture. Wow!! A hood. Amazing.

The photos are in reverse order from lunch yesterday to the tradition "mom / daughter" after photo.

Wish I had time to reverse them to the right order, but we are still in the midst of the celebration and are off to dinner to finish up with gift giving and champagne.

All I can say is that I couldn't be more proud. Just simply couldn't be....