December 23, 2008

Santa Cruz

Filed under: holidays, Travel — maryparadox @ 1:35 am


The bay looking North.


The bay looking South.

I grew up in Santa Cruz and my mom still lives there. Luckily for me she has a spare room and when I can get away I get a free mini-vacation by driving the hour-and-a-half to go visit her. Santa Cruz is really beautiful, though a rather small town, with many of the problems that come with a small town (you run into your first boyfriend, his girlfriend, that kid you hated from high-school, etc.)

Peter and I drove down there for my mom’s birthday and thanksgiving last month, and both times we went for a walk from my mom’s house, through a wildlife preserve, through the harbor, and to the ocean.

On mother’s day, across the harbor from the light-house:


The light-house on the North end of the harbor.


Looking contemplatively at the beautiful view.

And on the light-house side of the harbor the day before Thanksgiving:


The light-house up close.

Interesting story about Santa Cruz — there is a part of town known as Twin Lakes within Santa Cruz county but south of the city of Santa Cruz. Twin Lakes is near the ocean and has one small lake that mingles with the ocean at high-tide or during heavy rains. As a child I always wondered where the second lake was and I finally found out a couple of years ago — the second lake is the harbor. The barrier between the lake and the ocean was ripped out and the harbor is dredged constantly to maintain the passage. The light-house sits on the north end of the harbor, and the Crow’s Nest restaurant is on the south side.


A nice picture of mom.


Classic Peter face.

We went to thanksgiving at two places this year, my uncle’s house the day before, and our friend Chris’s house the day of. I always forget to take pictures, but I got a couple at my uncle’s house this year — they did a “crab-feed”.


This is only a portion of the crabs they made!


Peter doesn't even like crab but is still willing to help.


My uncles Bob and Ron (sucking crab brain juice, ewwwww).


Backyard Reorg

Filed under: House — maryparadox @ 12:10 am

Our backyard, like our house, is long and skinny. Our lot is only 15 feet wide — the result of someone deciding to split a house into two single-family homes by cutting it right down the middle, instead of doing a condo conversion by floors (each floor is a separate condo).

Some previous owner did some landscaping, installing a patio with pavers and a wide walkway that goes to the back third of the yard. There is one really nice mature lemon tree, then a small Meyer lemon almost on top of the walkway, and some other mysterious citrus that it looks like the real estate agent planted in order to make the yard look filled out.

We want to make the yard more use-able, for a garden, for hanging out in, and for viewing. Step one is to get rid of or cut back the plants we don’t want, and to shape the yard into a more appealing shape. The long wide path that goes to the back exaggerates the narrowness of the yard, and the Meyer lemon tree would eventually block the path and the view of the far-back.

So we cut down the path by a foot (and possibly will do more) and relocated the Meyer lemon tree to a location currently filled by an incredibly thorny flower-less fruit-less doomed citrusy looking thing.

Next we would like to take out the giant raised bed, possibly deconstructing it and using the lumber for smaller beds 90 degrees to the current bed. I should really draw up a plan for the backyard to show all this, but I’m way too lazy right now.

Moving the lemon tree was pretty straight-forward, but a lot of work. You have to try to maintain the root-ball of the tree, and therefore dig a giant mote around the tree and lift out the whole thing as one piece. It started raining about half way through and we were pretty drenched by the time we were done.

The cats hang out with us outside when we do yard work.

The tree almost out, just some roots underneath still attached.

And then it started to rain.

And the rain created mud.

Digging the a nice big hole to put the lemon tree into.

Drop the tree in, center it, and fill the top with dirt, creating a little wall so water stays near the roots.

The Meyer lemon in its new home.

One good thing about the rain is that it has been hydrating the tree really well and so far it hasn’t wilted or dropped any of its fruit. Woohoo!

We found all this glass, and more, in our back yard while moving the Meyer lemon tree!

December 8, 2008

Kitchens, Present and Future

Filed under: House — maryparadox @ 2:22 am

Our kitchen is a disaster. I’ve mentioned it before, but our kitchen has NO COUNTERS. There is a small amount of dilapidated tile around the kitchen sink, which is in a WHOLE OTHER ROOM which was tacked onto the back of our house and is now falling down. Witness:


You are now viewing all of the counters and cabinets in our kitchen. Note the missing tile on the left and the sagging ceiling above. Also the amazing view of the deck supports out the window.

We really want to remodel the kitchen, but decided to do a smaller project first (the mini-bath, no pun intended), in order to get the hang of things. In the meantime we can keep thinking about all the things we wished the kitchen had (cabinets, windows) and where all those things should go. We try to spend as little money as possible on the kitchen since we will be remodeling, but sometimes you have to fix things up a little bit in order to survive.

So far we have made the following improvements in the kitchen:


Fit shelves into an almost completely useless corner.


Removed the giant and useless brick pillar next to the stove.


Added a little bit of counter space next to the stove, so you actually have a place to put hot things down.


And our newest addition -- a spice rack in the shadow of the brick pillar.


Gratuitous close-up.

All the while fine tuning our dream kitchen (or at least our affordable dream kitchen):


Highlights: more light in the living room, bar seating, more windows, lots of cabinets for food and dishes, a breakfast nook, and an awning over the back door.

December 7, 2008


Filed under: House, Mini Bath — maryparadox @ 11:33 pm

In order to install our new “wee bath” aka “mini bath” aka “toilet and sink shoved under the stairs” we have to get a permit. In order to get a permit you need before-and-after floor plans, on special paper, with at least 1/4″ scale. Our contractor kindly dropped off some of this paper and I set about creating two copies of “before” plans and two copies of “after” plans, the difference between the two being the moving of 3 feet of wall. It’s like one of those images games for kids: count how many things are different between these two images!


Under the stairs -- before.


Under the stairs -- after. Behold, the wee bathroom.

In our existing bathroom we’ve been making some minor improvements, mostly thanks to my mom. I bought a cabinet at Ikea months ago, with the plan of painting it white (it only came in natural wood), but could never get around to finishing the job. While I was recovering from surgery my mom took the cabinet and the paint home, painted it, and returned it all assembled! Then all we had to do was install it and fill it up with all of our bathroom supplies that have been living in a cardboard box.


The bathroom cabinet finally painted and hung up. Also, our ridiculous bathroom chandelier.


And full of crap. I love how the little shelf on the bottom is the perfect size for toilet paper.

Our second improvement was to try to make our bathtub less deadly. We have one of those beautiful claw-foot tub that is about six inches off the ground and will let you soak completely stretched out and under water. The down side of this is that to get into the tub you put one foot in, then have to sort of jump to get the other foot in, which throws you off balance and leaves you teetering precariously over a rather hard-looking marble floor. I’ve slipped or lost my balance in the tub a number of times already and have nightmares of falling out and killing not only myself but crushing a cat as well.

I think the ultimate solution will be to get some sort of foot stool, but in the mean time it seemed prudent to improve the traction in the tub — so my mom bought us cool blue bathtub stickies in the shape of stars.


Our dangerous bathtub slightly pacified.

Because the clawfoot tub has to have a shower curtain that goes all of the way around it, and is very curved, there aren’t a lot of good ways to store shampoo. One of those hanging doodads that goes over the showerhead would interfere with the curtain and the piping, and if we put a shelf on the wall you would have to do some creative reaching to get to it around the curtain, splashing water everywhere in the process. My first solution was to get a shower curtain with little pockets on it. I thought this was brilliant, and it worked well for about six months, but then the pockets started to get pink and mouldy, rip, and stretch from heavy shampoo bottles. So now I’m attempting solution number two: a hanging doodad made to go on the curtain rod:

The new shampoo holder on top of the shower curtain with mesh sleeves.

Now all I need to do is find a nightstand that fits next to the toilet and that the litter box fits under. I was also contemplating putting decorative paper under the glass of the hanging cabinet, so that you don’t have to look at our hundred boxes of dental floss. And that is of course not including the need to fix the skylight (which is half over the bathroom and half over the stairs, so that you can throw things over the wall between the two), and remove the attic access over the tub — where no one can get to it.

Yay for owning a home! The work never ends :)

Blog at