Friday, November 29, 2013

away status / home

 not dead, definitely not dead. just lazy.

blogging means sitting in front of a computer, which i'm usually unwilling to do outside of work. but i miss it -- this blog is the closest thing i have to a journal, it encourages me to take (decent, non-phone) photos and write down what i've been up to. i also miss reading everyone else's blogs, which i'm sorry to admit i haven't done in months (but will work on doing's fun having a huge backlog of posts to read, sorta like how netflix gives you an entire new season of arrested development all at once, and your sleep schedule and personal hygiene go to shit for a few days but you are so so happy).

 a lot has changed since last spring! the biggest thing is also the littlest...this 5-lb cuddlemonster:

 her name is ouija, she's a 7-year-old min pin chihuahua mix ("chipin") from the humane society. it occurred to me that i'm stable enough and have enough space to invite another little pup into the family, and that with a small dog i'd be able to overlook my phobia of having more dogs than arms. as soon as i realized that, i desperately needed to make it happen. i brought her home november 7.

 i wanted to rescue a less-adoptable dog. there are certain conditions that make it harder for dogs to get adopted from the shelter (like being a bully breed, having health problems, etc). two of the big ones are having black fur, and being old. seven years doesn't seem that old to me, but they had her classified as a "senior," which is enough to turn people off. she'd been at the shelter for a couple weeks despite being super cute and tiny and sweet.

 her shelter name was pecan, which is adorable but wasn't quite right. we tried out lots of names: goddess bunny, batty (after the character from fern gully, who she resembles), morsel, nugget, spoonful, twiggy, mosquito. the name she really responded to was ouija. from the very first time i said it, it made her satellite-dish ears swivel toward me and her big brown eyes look alert.

 she's the sweetest little girl, all she wants to do is cuddle. i don't fully consider her a dog, more like a very docile and affectionate cat-bunny-reptile hybrid that lives for snuggling and warmth. she defies a lot of the small-dog stereotypes: she's very quiet, doesn't ever nip or growl or try to be an alpha dog, and is talented at staying out of the way to avoid getting stepped/sat on.

 the other really big change is actually really big. i bought my first house!

 i had been thinking about it for a while...turns out renting was not my cup of tea. i had a great little old house (very little, 740sqft) on a very large plot of land, which is exactly what i thought i wanted. i did all the yard work and kept my tiny space as clean and neat as i could, but it got old, having almost no storage space, not having a dishwasher (seriously, this was the worst), spending so much of my free time doing (fun but backbreaking) yard work in a yard that wasn't even mine. it felt like i had all the responsibilities and burdens of owning, but without the satisfaction of actually owning the place.

 i put a ton of work into my garden last spring. cleared more space, weeded and hand-tilled the entire plot (which is insanity, but it needed to be done that way, to rip out the bindweed roots). it turned out amazing, gorgeous, outstandingly productive, plenty messy (overgrown, bird- and insect-nibbled, and entirely imperfect, but that's part of the appeal). i got very close to that "dream garden" ideal i've been chasing for years.

 but i was so aware of putting all this effort into something that i'd only have for a short time. i'm still proud of the work, and i was extremely happy to pass it on to the next tenants -- they got in on the tail end of the season, with lots left to harvest, and a well-primed canvas for next year's planting. i was overjoyed to walk away from it knowing i could start all over again, and this time make it last.

 in late august i got serious about house buying. i secured a loan, and that same night (despite having trolled zillow, trulia, etc for months without finding anything acceptable) that very night i found the perfect house. i emailed my realtor and she set up a showing the next day. on my way there, she called to break the devastating news that the sellers accepted another offer that morning.

she sent me a bunch more listings but none of them came close to what i wanted. i was deeply disappointed. there was nothing else remotely similar to this house in my price range. i asked her to keep an eye on it, just in case the sale fell through. lucky for me, it did! there were already multiple offers, but i managed to sneak one in and get it accepted.

 the whole process of closing took less than a month and went unbelievably smoothly. things about the home-buying process that my experienced friends told me to expect turned out not to be true in my case. it was faster, easier, less paperwork, less expensive, and with fewer hurdles than i expected...possibly because i'd prepared myself for the worst, and stressed myself out to the point where if i navigated the experience and came out with all my limbs intact i could chalk it up as a win. the fact that it was going smoothly made me stress out even more, i kept waiting for some horrible snag that would make it all come crashing down.

 about the house: it was built in 1920, in an old neighborhood called the "depot bench" (depot because it's near this old train depot/boise landmark, and bench because it's raised up on a big flat hill).

the house is 1,940sqft on two stories, plus a full, partially-finished basement for storage/pantry/laundry room/root cellar, and a detached garage that i'm using as a storage shed. add it all up and it's probably four times the amount of space i had at the old place, but i'm not rattling around in it, it's very comfortable. considerably less yard, but it is on a double lot, on a quiet neighborhood corner. and damned if i'm not ready to downsize a little bit in the yard department anyway.

the backyard didn't come fully fenced, which was kind of a pain, but that meant i got to plot out exactly where i wanted the fence to run and how i wanted it to look. i did a bunch of pinterest research before settling on a wood fence with horizontal slats and small gaps between the boards.

 the yard is nice and sunny, with four rectangular garden beds that won't begin to satisfy my needs, but there's a good 40x50 lot of prime real estate between the driveway and the alley where i plan to rip out all the grass and start a veggie garden. i made the fenced portion of the backyard small-ish with the intention of planting most of my garden outside the fence, so that the dogs and chickens can't mess it up.

the sprinkler system runs on regular city water, but the house also came with rights to irrigation water, so for something like $20/year i get unlimited irrigation water two days a week during the growing season.

i'm going to grow a line of three fruit trees along the inside of the fence: peach, plum, pear. maybe a cherry somewhere if i can find a spot. on the opposite side of the yard i'll build a grape arbor (someday). the backyard already has a well-established raspberry bush, a large strawberry patch, and a compost pile. the former owners made a point of telling me that all their gardening was 100% organic.

 the front yard has three enormous ash trees, a maple, lots of roses, a purple rose of sharon, a lilac tree next to the front door, and i added a butterfly bush under the front windows. i also planted a bunch of spring bulbs in the front beds. in the spring i want to add some flowering vines around the house, maybe clematis and honeysuckle.

 the ladies live in the side yard, which is fenced off separately, but i leave the gate open so they have run of the backyard during the day. my dad built their new coop.

 i asked him to build a copy of the A-frame coop from my rental. he showed me some fantastic coop designs that he found plans for online, all these intricate chicken mansions, one of which even had a patio with a chicken-sized porch swing...but this A-frame design is so practical and lovely, my heart was set on it.

he had the place move-in ready in two days, then he covered it in reclaimed cedar from his neighbor's recently-demolished fence. i love the weathered-wood look.

 he formed a pretty serious bond with the chickens while he was working on their house. it's adorable. he sometimes stops by while i'm at work just to give the ladies treats.

my parents have been hugely supportive with this house. they helped me move all my crap, babysat my boys for a couple days while i packed, helped me clean out the rental, helped me with a ton of yard work at the new place, and bought me pretty much a whole new fridge, gas stove, dishwasher, sink, garbage disposal.
 they also gave me their "old" washer and dryer, a wonderful couch, and their kitchen table and chairs left over from when they remodeled their kitchen last spring. so generous, it's crazy. here's a little tour of the rest of the house...

 the front room is my favorite.

 the fireplace! the built-ins! the french doors! i fell instantly in love with the house because of this room.

i'm going to re-tile the area in front of the fireplace with a more interesting tile, and probably add a new screen. i had the chimney cleaned as part of closing, and have already used the fireplace nearly a dozen times. andy loves it.

 the entryway/dining room...

 between having a proper dining table and a dishwasher, it's super easy to entertain. i have friends over for dinner at least once, sometimes two or three times a week.

 the wood floors are original and make wonderful creaky noises under your feet. i think most of the interior doors are original, too, and handmade, with mismatched antique doorknobs and holes for skeleton keys. one of my favorite details in the house is the old cast-iron heater vents. the house used to be heated by coal, and although the old coal furnace is (thankfully) removed, there's still a coal storage room in the basement, and a coal chute door in the wall.

 the kitchen...

 one of my future projects is to paint over the teal color in sunny yellow (to match the ceramic drawer/cabinet pulls i added), and replace the floor with black-and-white checkerboard linoleum. i also need to make new curtains (in turquoise -- aiming for a color scheme that's mostly white and yellow with turquoise accents). i might replace the tile counters sometime (i hated them at first, but they're growing on me). just cosmetic things, though, all the important improvements are already done.

 i turned one of the downstairs bedrooms into a "media room," office space/entertainment combo.

 my bedroom...

 with an organized closet, for the first time in my life.

 the bathroom is small-ish but totally decent, with a new shower and tile floor, and a bunch of recessed built-in shelving.

 the upstairs spare bedroom/craft room...

 an entire side of the room is this enormous closet that swallowed my ridiculous amount of off-season or otherwise not-being-worn clothes, with room for seconds. sometime soon i'm going to get a new bed for my room and put the old one up here by the window.

 i don't have a plan yet for the bonus room upstairs. right now it's cluttered with boxes and craft stuff. if i ever get desperate for money i could rent out the whole second floor.

 the basement is split up into four rooms, or five if you count the coal room (which is just a little too creepy and dirty for practical use). the main room is all storage and kitchen pantry stuff, to the left is the laundry room, and a small little weird room in the corner, and off to the right is an unfinished room that i will probably turn into a root cellar type deal. i'm pretty sure the basement was once used as a grow room -- there's an outrageous number of power outlets (around two dozen), and a random unused water tap coming down from the ceiling in the unfinished room.

 the most remarkable thing revealed in the home inspection was something i wouldn't have noticed, because i don't know much about house construction, but apparently the foundation is crazy, weirdly thick. a normal multi-story house should have about a 12" foundation, but this one has approx. 3.5-foot thick concrete, bomb shelter-style. the house inspector had never seen anything like it.

 the detached garage is located between the backyard and the alley. next spring i want to organize part of it into a sort of potting shed.

 i have a lot of work to do, but most of what's left is fun stuff! sewing curtains, painting, hanging new light fixtures, re-tiling in front of the fireplace, finding new art to hang on the walls, and then all the garden work and tree planting i have to look forward to next season.

 now i'm going to go binge on everyone elses' blogs...i hope all is well and that everyone had a wonderful thanksgiving.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

fill the house with flowers

 last year at this time i was moving, cleaning, packing away--i started moving in to this house just over a year ago. it didn't leave much free time for my usual obsessive spring routines: seed starting, prepping the soil, trying to control the weather with my mind-powers. this year i'm settled and ready to experience ALL THE SPRINGS.

 the ladies are one year old at the end of this month!

 the other day i ran into an old friend of mine who i hadn't seen in six years. turns out we live just a few blocks away, work across the street from each other, and we both have chickens! (and we're both named emily...but that's always been the case.) similarities end there, though, we're pretty different people. she came over one night to catch up. talking to her was such a trip. familiar/unfamiliar.

 i added another pet...actually, a few hundred of them. a couple weeks ago i SUDDENLY, DESPERATELY *NEEDED* sea monkeys. like no one has ever needed sea monkeys before. i can't explain it, it just happened. so i called every store that might possibly sell sea monkeys and no one had them. instead i went to an aquarium store and bought a packet of brine shrimp. they've been living happily on wheat flour and nutritional yeast.

 my mouth is already watering for spring salads. i have a pot of mixed lettuces going, and four of the five dwarf tomato plants i started mid-january are growing baby tomatoes already.

 yummy herb pot, basil and parsley mix.

 doing lots of cooking lately...this is one of the best things i've ever made:

 egg pizza! homemade down to the crust. topped with vegan pesto (fresh basil, cashews, pistachios, nutritional yeast, garlic, olive oil, salt), basil-tofu ricotta (tofu, fresh basil, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, olive oil), sauteed mushrooms and zucchini, kalamata olives, eggs, and some seasonings.

 i'm making another one tonight, but this time with regular marinara sauce, just because i'm lazy. my mom's coming over--my parents are getting major renovation work done on their house so it's all torn up, and my dad is in maryland for a few days, so my mom's joining me for dinner and dropping off scout. i'll be pugglesitting until tuesday. three pups! madness!

 this is gyeran jjim (korean steamed eggs). i used olive brine in place of salt, topped with scallions, toasted sesame seeds, garlic and chili powder. the texture is a lot like silken tofu.

 basil-tofu ricotta stuffed manicotti, with sauteed asparagus and spaghetti squash, and spinach.

 spaghetti with vegan pesto, tomatoes, garlic bread, and a poached egg on top.

 hard boiled eggs marbled with beet juice. i didn't use enough beet juice so the coloring is pretty faint. i'll try again. the eggs peeled nicely though--i left them in the fridge for a couple weeks, because fresh eggs do not peel well at all.

 i made a fritatta-ish dish with tons of delicious veggies for crafting day with cam last week--she got a glass cutter, so we were cutting glass bottles and making drinking cups and self-watering planters, like this one:

 we made dozens, it was lots of fun. we had another fun time this weekend, involving much creative cooking and seed starting, and she informed me that "the internet needs to know about this"...and it will, but that'll have to wait for another post.

 this is happening! i am so excited! neutral milk hotel has been my favorite band for the better part of a decade. i never thought i'd get to see jeff mangum live. he's playing at the egyptian theatre:

 i was there wednesday night shooting photos at a reading (firoozeh dumas, author of "funny in farsi"). it's a fabulous venue.