March 24, 2009

Lviv, Ukraine, Again

Filed under: Lviv, Ukraine, Work — maryparadox @ 3:25 pm

It snowed.

I went to Lviv, Ukraine again for work. My company contracts engineers there and many of them work on my project. Things haven’t been going well with our project so we went over there to get things back on track. It seems to have worked.


Could I be any whiter? You'd think I'd been living in Lviv all winter.

The manager in Lviv tried to tell me that 10% of the population in Lviv was read-headed. He must be crazy because I didn’t see a single (natural) red head the entire time I was there. In fact, almost everyone in Lviv looks the same, white, brunette, slim, and well dressed.


Adam. He spent the week trying to block us all out.

At some point I was leading a meeting and everyone got off topic. Apparently I told everyone to shut up. Luckily my boss thought it was so funny he took this picture of the Engineering Manager pretending to be me telling everyone to shut up.

Mike pretending to be me.


Babushka Rachel. It was cold.


Bathroom Remodel: Day 16

Filed under: Mini Bath — maryparadox @ 3:10 pm


I went to Lviv last week for work, and while I was gone the contractor was planning on finishing the bathroom. Instead I came home to this:

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Apparently the bathroom became narrower than 30″ at some point, so the bathroom sink no longer fit in. Woohoo the sink is installed, booo for the hoopy installation :(


Running water.

The sink is also a little tall. This is entirely my fault, since I asked them to install it at a taller than normal height. I can live with that, since everyone in our house is tall and we rarely have young guests.


The pipes are much more visible than I expected.

We talked to Ed this morning about the installation. There was a bunch of hand waiving and he claimed he had told us that the sink wasn’t going to fit. Peter and I both thought he hadn’t. Ed says they are going to center the sink better today then close up the hole so that we won’t be able to tell… we’ll see.

March 17, 2009

Bathroom Remodel: Days 13-15

Filed under: Kitties, Mini Bath — maryparadox @ 1:26 am

A wonderful carpenter came and helped us pick out the last bits of trim, then installed them over the next three days (he was sick part of the time).

The trim in the living room:


We got really lucky and found almost the exact same chair rail!


The carpenter took the trim all the way across the wall, so it looks seamless. The room is really starting to come together.

The trim outside the bathroom:


The trim around the door is actually two separate pieces, and came from multiple stores -- all so it would match the existing trim.


The picture rail in the hallway. This is reusing the piece that was originally in this area -- except it wasn't long enough so two 2" chunks are mismatched.

Trim inside the bathroom, so far:


The picture rail in the bathroom sits just above the step, essentially masking it and making it look intentional.

The hardwood floor replacement, including the inlay, which still needs to be sanded:


Amazing. The carpenter even matched the types of wood.


Apparently this is oak and cherry. It still needs to be sanded and sealed.

I’m currently in Lviv, Ukraine for work. It’s 3am and I totally can’t sleep even though I already took a Lunesta. <sigh>


While packing for the trip I turned around and found this.

March 11, 2009

Killer Kitties (not a posting for children)

Filed under: Kitties — maryparadox @ 11:12 pm

I mentioned a couple of months ago how a friend bought our cats some toy mice and they learned to play catch and fetch. Since then we have gone through about five or six “mice” as the cats eat then, lose them, and destroy them. They continue to be the favored toy and Peter and I now stop by and buy more whenever we are near the pet store, knowing we can never have too many in stock. Sometime they are so many in circulation (about six last time I checked) that we begin to wonder if there isn’t some secret mice burial ground that we don’t know about.


Hunter looking evil.

Well, the other day I went into the backyard and found the cats playing with something. It looked like one of the fake mice and so I thought “Ah hah! The secret to where all the fake mice go — outside!” But, upon closer inspection, I was wrong.


Upon closer inspection, not a fake mouse.

I wonder, did the cats even know that this mouse was different from the mice we play with in the house? The mouse wasn’t dead (yet) when I first came outside and I picked it up hoping to save it. I had a pet rat I was very fond of as a child and I still like rodents (just ask Peter about how I think squirrels are cute). Unfortunately I didn’t find him until too late and his injuries were to severe. While in my hands he rolled over onto his back, curled up his little legs, and bit the dust. I felt bad and there may or may not have been a tear or too. Then I have the mouse back to the cats to play with since they were having so much fun after all. All those practice sessions of catch and fetch really came in handy.

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The next day Penny brought the mouse to Peter while he was working from home, but he thought it was one of the fake mice for a game of fetch. He claims he “screamed like a little girl” when he picked up the real mouse and figured out what it was.


Very dead.

Backyard Progress

Filed under: House — maryparadox @ 10:49 pm
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Here are the promo shots of the backyard from when we bought the house. When we first moved in the backyard had an overly-staged look — everything was covered in wood chips, there were a bunch of new plants randomly distributed and everything was sharp and clean. Nothing seemed very well thought out — there were a bunch of bushes placed right on the central walkway where they would eventually grow large enough to block the path, an abundance of mystery citrus (4 trees in a little tiny yard), and did a I mention all the wood chips?

We have a couple of goals in redesigning the back yard:

  • Make it feel larger and make the view from the house nice.
  • Grow food.
  • Make a nice space to sit and relax.
  • Make it “overgrown” (goal from Peter, of course).

The plan for addressing these goals is:

  • Have plants close to the house and in the center of the yard be short, then let things in the back and along the fence-line be taller.
  • Put in planter boxes in the sunniest area for food plants and replace any non-edible plants with edible ones if possible.
  • Try to break the yard up into squares, rather than one long rectangle. (I’ve always found that how big a room feels is proportional to the size of the largest empty square).
  • Buy more plants(!), which we haven’t gotten to yet because spring is just coming up.

Peter and I have done a couple of projects so far along the lines of this plan. We planted grapes along the back fence. One day I went crazy and espaliered the Camelia. Then one weekend Peter and I moved the meyer lemon tree. I’m happy to say it is still doing well.


Lemony happiness.

When we moved the meyer lemon tree we also narrowed the path in the back yard — I showed the areal photos of this before, and now I have a third photo to show — the yard with the “new” planter boxes (as you can see I have a different lens on my camera now).

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We cut the existing planter box into three pieces horizontally, trimmed one end off, and turned them 90 degrees. I was afraid the planters would make the yard feel smaller (always a concern with a 15′ wide yard), but it feels bigger. I like the way we managed to keep the plants where the planter boxes went — we just buried them a little bit.

The plan now is level off the back third of the yard, lay down some stone re-purposed from another area to form a patio, and ring it with bushy and climbing plants. We will of course be planting our vegetables soon too! As for trees, we have a kumquat tree we still need to plant and I really want to get an apricot tree. Maybe I’ll get one (early) for my birthday (hint hint).

And here are some gratuitous close ups, just because I’m so proud of us:

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March 10, 2009


Filed under: Cooking — maryparadox @ 8:48 pm

If you asked me the proverbial question “cookies or cake?” I would answer “Brownies!” For me cookies are too sweet and cake is too dry. Brownies come out moist (or downright gooey if you under cook them like I do), chocolaty, and if they are good, not too sweet.

I have a wheat allergy (which is different from gluten intolerance, which is called celiac disease) which means that I’m limited when it comes to brownie recipes. I do some baking and some cooking but haven’t really tackled the challenge of wheat-free cooking (well, I tried once and it was a complete disaster, without gluten things tend to be dry to the point of dusty) So instead of attempting to create the perfect wheat-free brownie I have instead sampled every single gluten/wheat-free brownie mix available at my local hippie food stores. Since I’m also allergic to corn, soy, milk, peanuts, and walnuts, I chose mixes that also excluded those things.

I here I present to you the results! Imagine the countless hours of dumping mix into bowls, stirring, baking, and eating that I have sacrificed to bring you this mecca of brownie!! It was torture I tell you. Pure torture.


Mmmmmm. Greatest. Brownies. Ever. Even if I could eat wheat!

Actually the truth is that I do eat wheat semi frequently, just not in large quantities. I think these brownies are good even weighed against the normal flour variety. My theory is that when the the makers of these brownies were in their test kitchen they responded to every uncertainty by saying “add more chocolate!” Of course I also add a cup of chocolate chips when I make them (luckily Peter usually has a giant bag of dark chocolate chips, milk chocolatechips , and chocolate nibs laying around).

This brand, Namaste, also has a pancake mix and a muffin mix that are wheat/gluten free. I tried the pancakes and they were awesome, now I can’t wait to try the muffins. I couldn’t find this brand at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco but it was available at Whole Foods, which means you can get it just about anywhere.

Did I also mention that you can freeze the brownies after they are baked then eat them right out of the freezer??!!

Bathroom Remodel: Day 12ish

Filed under: Mini Bath — maryparadox @ 12:53 am

The Victoriana Book of Ornamental Building Materials No. 18.

The contractors worked a couple half days in there somewhere, so lets jump ahead to day 12. Since the bathroom tile was installed Peter and I have spent our time picking out trim for our house. Since we have a Victorian this includes base boards, chair rails, picture rails, and cornices. Ed gave us a book from a local company called Victoriana that makes trim to match some of the most popular Victorian styles.


A page describing the different ways to trim a door. The simplest one on the far left matches our house.

The book is pretty amazing. It includes detailed drawings in the back demonstrating most of the major styles and which components to buy to reproduce them. It took a long time just to figure out the names of all the types of trim and what they were all used for.


We're getting the cornice on the bottom right of the first page. It's only 7" in diameter.

We had picked out a lot of this by the time the carpenter showed up this morning, but he helped us make a few more choices, some of which came from a second shop with a slightly different selection (I’ll get the name and post it soon). We were able to find trim that matched the base board and chair rail in the living room perfectly. This will go where the china cabinet was removed to make the wall look seamless.


Chair rails. The one on the lower left hand side of the right page matches our living room exactly!

Then we needed to pick out base board, chair rail, and door trim (called “casing”, in case you’re curious) for the hallway where the wall was moved and the bathroom door is. Ed had saved the trim from around the china cabinet, in hopes of using it to trim the door, but the thought of dealing with 20 layers of old paint convinced us that splurging on new trim was worth it.


Chair rails. I was torn between the one in the middle and the one to the left of it. Peter helped me selttle on the one to the left -- it was simpler.

Then in the bathroom we needed to pick out a chair rail, picture rail, and a cornice for where the chandelier will go (but we don’t need a base board because we used the marble tile instead — easier to clean).


The indexd page, showing the cross sections of all the trim.

Daylight Savings: Summer! (or at least it feels like it)

Filed under: House — maryparadox @ 12:19 am

When Peter and I bought our house sunlight was the number one priority for me. I like to lay in the sun pouring in through the window and take a catnap, read, or just warm up. Our house has good sun, but it is definitely better during the summer when the sun is high in the sky. There is a large redwood tree in our neighbors yard, and during the winter the sun gets caught behind it in the evening and doesn’t poke its head around the other side before going down.

That is, until this last week when I came home to find this in the office:


Our sun-bathed office.

It is finally late enough in the year for the sun to make it past the redwood tree, and therefore fully into our office in the afternoons. Pretty soon I’ll get to hear Peter moaning about how hot it is :)

Our upstairs is usually about 10 degrees warmer than the downstairs, but during the summer it can get downright unbearable, at least for a normal person. We have to start keeping the blinds closed, the doors and windows open, and sometimes even the fan on — pretty unusual for San Francisco. I guess that’s the benefit of living in the Mission, one of the warmer micro-climates in the city. Woohoo!


The sun fighting to get past the redwood tree.

When summer fully comes on we’ll get to enjoy real sun like this:

Full summer sun!

Full summer sun!

Though our office would have to be a hell of a lot cleaner for the sun to get across the room. Hunter would also have to shrink back to kitten size.

March 9, 2009

Bathroom Remodel: Day 11

Filed under: Mini Bath — maryparadox @ 11:36 pm



Half way through obsessively lining up the veins in the tile.

Peter and I picked out the marble tile and grout for the bathroom floor several weeks ago and have been storing it the garage until the time came. When I found out that the tile setter was coming I brought it upstairs and began setting it out in the living room to figure out how I wanted it to be laid out. Is that a crazy thing to do? Peter thought I had gone bananas. I began to wonder if I had myself, but then I saw the end result:


The best shot I could get of the floor. The veins line up horizontally, with the center line being the best.

The tiles are set so that the ones on the long wall of the bathroom have three inches cut off and flipped up to create the base board. This means that the veins continue up the wall, since they are part of the same tile.


Veins lining up horizontally and vertically.

The tile to the left of the sink in the last picture will be used to make a backspash! Our current bathroom has wainscoting as the backsplash and all the little grooves get filled with gunk and are impossible to get clean. The current bathroom also has no (none, zip, zero, nada) counter-space, and a tiny mirror. The new bathroom will be a quarter the size, but will have the bit of counter integrated into the sink and a nice big mirror!


A sink preview. Hahahah, Get it? I kill myself.

Yarn Modification

Filed under: Knitting — maryparadox @ 11:16 pm

My dad gave me three big batches of yarn for Christmas that I’ve been trying to match to projects. Part of the problem was color — they didn’t quite match what I needed. So I decided to make some modifications. One batch was worsted weight blue wool (or BLUE, as my dad calls it) which I’ve wound into skeins and am planning on dyeing — probably half purple and half dark blue/green. I still need to match this to a specific project before I dye it.


The original balls of BLUE yarn.


Winding the balls of yarn into skeins on the back of a chair.


The resulting stack of skeins. They won't all fit into one pot so I'm thinking of dyeing one batch purple and on batch blue-green.

The second batch of yarn was two strands of cream twisted together with one strand of camel. Separately these are nice, together, not so much. I tried dyeing some samples but decided what I liked best was the colors separated, so I untwisted the yarn over a couple of evenings. The technique I finally settled on was to stick the ball of yarn in a ziplock bag with just the center-pull strand sticking out the top. Pull about three feet of yarn out and begin separating, twisting the two strands into separate balls. As the twist moves down towards the bag lift it off the ground so that the yarn can untwist. Repeat. The bag helps hold the ball together and allows you to lift the ball up off the ground to get the twist out.


Four types of yarn dyed four different colors -- using Jacquard dyes in jars in the microwave.


Unwinding the balls with my patented plastic-bag method.


The original yarn on the left with some of the unwound balls on the top right.

I’ve already done a swatch and am attempting to design a lace shrug with the 4ply camel colored yarn. I’ll post as soon as I have something respectable! The ball with the straggly bits in the photo below was mauled by Hunter while no-one was looking :)


This resulting balls of yarn. The camel is actually quite pretty, but I might still dye the cream sink I don't wear white much.

It’s funny, I never liked the color “camel” until my housemate came home in a camel colored sweater about a month ago. I ended up buying a similar cardigan a week later and now really like the color. It’s odd to my how your color tastes can change — and it worries me too. I always remember looking at “old” people when I was a child and wondering how they could dress so terribly, perhaps this is why!


I should be working but instead I'm playing with my phone camera.

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