Monday, January 26, 2015


As if lush, winter-flowering bushes weren't enough to make me love where I live, a family of hummingbirds has moved in.  I've counted at least three so far.  They play in the fountains and hang out in the trees, and I feel as happy as a kid on Christmas every time I see them. 

Can you see it?  This is the fountain in my little backyard.
Hummingbirds are the dangedest to photograph, especially on a dim, cloudy morning.
This one's playing in the fountain in the courtyard out front.
It may look like a sparrow or chickadee, but don't be fooled.
In better light you'd see the bright green back and ruby red throat.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Flowers in January

Last night when I got home from work, I smelled something lovely.  A fresh, floral aroma floating around my front door.  How nice, I thought, one of my neighbors must have walked by a few minutes earlier, leaving a trace of perfume.

Tonight I came home and, as I fumbled with my keys in the dark, I again noticed the pretty scent in the air.  Like a cloud of springtime.  So I paused a little longer; paid a little more attention.  It couldn't be perfume:  too fresh and natural for that.  More like what you'd expect if you were surrounded by hundreds of tiny white flowers.  That's strange, I thought, it's the middle of January.

But look!  


The front and back of my house is planted with wonderful green bushes that have kept their leaves through the winter.  And there, nestled beneath the leaves?  Hundreds of tiny white flowers, fragrant as can be.

The rest of the country lies in wintry waste, and I have fresh blooming flowers on my front porch.  This may be my new favorite thing about Seattle.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The House: Why does DIY keep happening to me?

Is anyone else out there convinced that bedside tables are out to give them gray hairs and lay them in an early grave?  Because I swear that's what's happening.  It's like they're my own version of crossing the plaines, only I don't get to die of cholera before I need to ford the icy river.

The problem is that bedside tables are either hideous or outrageously expensive (or both), and exactly none of them is the right height for whatever bed you're trying to pair them with.  If you need tall bedside tables (as I did for the master bedroom), all you'll find are toll-painted cabinets that look like they came from (I'm not even going to check if that's a real website because obviously it should be, and you know what it would sell) and you'll be forced to buy some lovely tables that are four inches too short and make you want to gnaw off your arms and legs.  AND THEN, when you're looking for shorter tables for the guest bedroom, suddenly everything will be too tall and you'll end up buying some steel factory tables because if you can't get what you really want why pay a fortune, right?  Right, but then you assemble them and realize you're going to spend the rest of your life wishing that they were three-and-a-quarter inches shorter.

See what I mean?  This is probably what the Bible meant
when it talked about the vale of tears
But then an epiphany on the drive home from work:  Home Depot exists!  They have tools that cut things!!  They're open until 9pm!!! [trumpets, cherubs]

I started at the rental counter for power tools because I wasn't messing around.  After I told the guys what I was doing ("Hey there, I need to chop off a bunch of steel table legs, so I'll take the biggest metal-cutting saw you've got."), they chuckled and sent me over to the hack-saw aisle, probably thinking I would be less of a menace to society if I wasn't wielding something that plugged in.

I bought my tool:

The finer the teeth on the saw, the better for cutting steel.
They catch less while you're sawing.
. . . lay my prisoner down . . .

. . . measured the offending member . . .

. . . and HACK!

Amputation complete

It was incredibly easy and went very fast.  So fast, in fact, that I may or may not have enthusiastically sawed off a chunk from a leg that I'd already shortened . . . .  Whoops!

Who needs duct tape when you have clear packing tape?
Fortunately, I had foreseen that sawed-off edges would be rough on the hardwood floor and had invented an ingenious way to prevent the damage:

Sticky stuff and felt-covered feet!  I stuck a ball of sticky stuff onto the spike of the foot,
and then I shoved the sticky ball into the open end of the pipe.
Voila.  No floor damage here.

In no time at all I had shortened both tables by exactly 3.25 inches, putting them at the height that I'd wanted all along.

Perfect!  Now I just need to mount the light fixtures above each table.

If only all my decorating problems could be solved with a hacksaw and some sticky stuff!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The hills are alive...

What's a super fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon?  Singing along with Julie Andrews at the top of your lungs with a group of friends and a sold-out theatre full of grown-ups and children who are all doing the same.

We were in the 5th Avenue theatre, an ornate old building downtown
where the touring Broadway plays come -- much more comfortable
than the side of the mountain at Sundance, where I did the last Sound of
 sing along!
As we walked in, they handed us little bags with everything we'd need
for the sing-along.

Flash cards for the song "What do you do with a problem like Maria"

A fabric swatch.  After the Captain turns down Julie's request for fabric,
she's at a loss for what to do -- that is, until the helpful audience waives their
fabric swatches at her and tells her to just turn around and look at the drapes!

We were all invited to the fact party that the Captain and the Baroness (hiss)
threw to show off the singing children!  

Party poppers to be popped at the precise moment of Julie and
the Captain's first kiss (though many smart alecks improvised popping
at other times, which was often hilarious)

And of course, a sprig of edelweiss, to be waived in the air like a lighter
at a rock concert when the Captain sings "Edelweiss"
Once the lederhosen-clad master of ceremonies had explained the proper use of our props, he quickly covered all the other instructions:  These included various noises (hissing for the Baroness, barking for Rolf, booing for the Nazis, cooing for Gretel), movements (hand gestures for the "Favorite Things" song, bowing for the woman who gets third place in the music festival), and cheering (every time Julie Andrews comes on screen).  Then we had a costume contest, where the finalists consisted of a family in full von Trapp costume, a couple dressed up like Schnitzel with Noodles, and a bunch of little kids dressed as Do Re Mi Fa So La and Ti.

Finally the lights dimmed and the movie started rolling.  It was a contest to see who could first spot Julie Andrews on the mountain top, and then of course we had to reminder her (loudly) that if the hills truly are alive with the sound of music, then you can't just sing about it, you have to sing AND TWIRL!

Singing along to a movie like this, with a crowd like the one we had, is delightful and silly and oh, so much fun!  Watching the movie as an adult brings back all those great memories of seeing it as a kid, only this time with a little different perspective.  You notice, for example, how awful the song "I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen" is, and just how terrific the Reverend Mother is.  And you leave wanting to be more like Julie Andrews and thinking if her Maria character and Cary Grant's Dudley character (from The Bishop's Wife) ever had children, they would be unstoppable charmers and so good that they'd probably get translated on the spot.