Fox Point

Briefly, regarding my last post, my trees got damaged pretty well with a bizarre streak of below 20 degree lows out here in the desert. It is not pretty. The leaves are mostly still green but are completely shriveled up and brittle. They fall off the trees if I brush by them. My singular lemon turned to mush but the grapefruits seem to be fine. I did cover each tree according to my neighbors instruction — which was maddening on a cold and windy afternoon — but I think we were too late and underprepared for the temperatures. I am not too concerned about the damage to the lemon tree, at least not yet as I don’t know much about caring for formerly frozen plants. I was already planning on cutting a lot of it off this spring for a fresh start and some definition anyway. It has no trunk and no direction. It’s still wild, even with as much as I’ve chopped off of that poor damn thing. Sounds kind of like me.

As for indoors around here, I have replaced two more cartridges in the faucets to alleviate incessant dripping. I had my sons help me with it a little bit. It was not quite the bonding moment that I expected it to be, but they did what they would. I have also screwed a little tiny box of wires back into the wall in the living room. I have no idea why it is there. I have resolved to replace the wooden threshold of the front door and the weatherstripping around the door as I can see light coming through it during the day. The dial to turn the water on and off in my sons’ shower dramatically snapped in half as my eldest son was turning the water on one morning. Naturally, I bought completely the wrong replacement piece and have yet to return or exchange it. Good thing we have pliers. Lastly, my temper has cost me all the time and materials I spent repairing the first kitchen drawer that broke several posts ago. At least now I have experience.

And to finally address the title of this page, I drove past my old apartment complex today. For some reason, every time I pass it, I look toward my former patio. I am honestly looking for my 20 year old self to be standing there perhaps talking on the telephone. When I look I get a calm feeling, as if I am remembering that those were the days, when I lived there, when I had everything together and I was the best version of myself. It was the first apartment that I paid for by myself every month. I came into my own as I lived there and at first memory I feel serenity. Truthfully though I’m sure I felt more afraid and indecisive than I do now. I panic all the time about bills and food and “making it” and something breaking in this house. It is a much better pot for me in which to grow, though. With my babies. Yesterday I was standing in the kitchen when I realized that this is where my sons will learn to cook. This is where they will surpass me in height. This is where they will learn to drive. Damn this house and I are lucky.


My Grapefruit Tree, All Grown Up

I trimmed the branches that were growing downward last week. It’s amazing what a difference that made. And I only lost two grapefruits. As you can see from the photo, the fruit is nice and yellow. A few of them are beginning to take on that nice pinkish hue. I wonder if there’s enough sugar in the state of Arizona to get me through those first few.
I am very proud to say that the tree survived in my care. I can’t wait to see what it does over the next couple years. As for the lemon tree, it’s more difficult to decide what to trim as there is no definitive trunk. But again I’ll give it time. And keep watering them. Maybe I’ll get more than one lemon next year. Here’s to a plant-safe winter.


Clash.

My house faces north. I have a window on the east wall of the kitchen and a window on the west wall of the kitchen. My view from either window is blocked by the respective neighbor’s houses. Around dinnertime, I walked into the kitchen and felt excited and then confused. The room was illuminated as it is in the morning: the a light and brightness coming in from the east side of the room. I thought, “Hooray, it’s still early! I still have several more hours of the day!” Then logic kicked in and I realized it was dusk. I figured the sunlight was bouncing off some clouds off to the east and popped outside to check it out. I got to the driveway and immediately felt humbled by the giant white puffs overhead. They were the kind that make you feel tiny and intimidated but at the same time so close to them you might be able to touch them. Everything around me was bright white; the sidewalk, the street, the neighbor’s houses; an air of newness about them. I casually turned to look toward the sun and caught my breath. It was low in the sky and an unnatural red. The effect was amplified by the cool blue sky and serene clouds one normally sees over an ocean. The sun seemed so angry, and it felt to me to be without reason. This setting made absolutely no sense at all to me logically but my heart was absolutely amazed. I felt like I was caught in the middle of an epic conversation I was never meant to hear, a delectable treat. I wish I took a photo of it, but I was positively rooted to the concrete. As the sun sunk in the sky, it glowed a hot pink and lined all the clouds that hid it in white.

I love my driveway.


Take Your Time

Sit back, reader, and prepare to learn. Or laugh. Or yawn, roll your eyes, or X out of your browser. Today’s topic is Repair a Leaky Faucet. Officially. A few years ago I watched videos on how to do it. I don’t remember anything coming of it except for confidently dismantling my own faucets to clean them. I know, exciting! I noticed that the sinks in each of the bathrooms here in our humble abode occasionally leaked and it wasn’t until the boys left their sink stopped up one night and it was full of water the next morning that I knew we had an issue. I honestly put it off for so long because I’ve been irrationally dreaming about new vanities in each restroom and thought that repairing them meant accepting them forever.
So I began to review repair videos. This one I enjoy very much.

They pretty much all said the same thing, just a different moustache to pair with each sink. One comment did stand out to me though and that was to take your time and make sure you have everything you need. What a good point to make. Why rush through when the job will still get done and maybe done even better if I just take my time and enjoy it? I have both styles of screwdriver and a wrench and I’ve had “assorted washers” sitting in my glovebox for months from when I admitted to myself it was time to repair the faucets. I waited until after I picked the kids up from school to tackle this one. I have decided to give them every opportunity I can to learn about tools and building and breaking. I rounded up my wrench, my standard screwdriver, my phillip’s head screwdriver, the boys, and my washers and headed to their bathroom. We turned off the water supply to the sink and turned the faucets “on” just to be sure they were empty. We then plugged the sink, just like the video. I then removed the “decorative cap” from the handle like so:

caps off

After that, I unscrewed the center screw to release the handle from the valve beneath it. There was a plastic ring around the valve so I pulled that off too and arranged it so you can see all the pretty pieces. I would like to mention here that we took this opportunity to clean the handles.

handle off

These parts weren’t difficult to remove at all and didn’t have as much buildup on them as I thought they would. Next, my youngest helped me to pull the valves loose with the adjustable wrench we keep laying around:

loosen the valve

At last we could get a good view of the valve and this infamous washer I was supposed to remove, dispose of, and replace. valve removed

As you can see, there is no washer here. At least on the bottom. At this point the kids were ready to move on to something more exciting so I let them. I removed the other valve thinking that maybe this was just a singular washerless piece of equipment. None of the valves that I removed, including those upstairs, had a washer on the bottom like the ones in all the videos I so studiously watched.
I went back to the drawing board (www.youtube.com) to try a more specific search on the valve, or “component” or to at least find a video that featured a faucet or valve similar to mine. So far and up to this minute, I have not found a video or product comparable to what I have in my hot little hand in that photo. No, no, it couldn’t be that easy.
I did inspect all four of the washers that are there and none seem to be cracked or damaged. They feel a little dry as far as rubber goes so I will replace them anyway. I just need to go to the hardware store again. I tried fitting some of the different washers on the valve at the bottom just in case they were just removed but never replaced. I put both faucets back together and this week I will replace the washers I do have just to be sure that they are not the cause of the dripping. Maybe that’ll do the trick.

I also wanted to briefly share with you all that the other day I came downstairs to find the ceiling fan not on. I usually leave it on just to circulate the air and I was upstairs showering while the boys played downstairs. I checked the switch and it was set to “on”, thinking the boys turned it off, flicked it on and off just in case, and checked to make sure the power was on. A few days later, I was relating this fact that the ceiling fan just stopped working when my eldest son interjected: “Mom, here’s what really happened. The other day I came home from school and took my shoes off and my socks off and I threw my socks up into the air and one got stuck on the fan! We had to get it off so we started throwing things at the fan — not heavy things — pillows and toys, to get it down. And then we threw a shoe at it and it finally came down but then the fa turned off.” I just stared at him. It’s incredible how many emotions we humans can feel at the same time. I was proud that he chose to come right out and tell me what happened, angry that he threw his socks, angry that he threw other stuff and disappointed that he didn’t find another way to get the sock down or at least come to me for help with it.
At least now I know.

Thanks for reading, everyone.


Corn on the 4th of July!

We decided to have tacos for dinner on the 4th. You might be able to see in the photo above that I bought the burrito-sized tortillas so we ended up with burritos instead. Steak burritos with guacamole. And a couple beers for me. I was also the recipient of no less than four ears of corn courtesy of my mother, who bought them on sale. The boys and I could probably easily devour four innocent ears of corn on the cob in one sitting, but if you look at them all together, it looks like a hell of a lot of corn. Like magic, Bon Appetit magazine posted to Twitter:

Which led me to find this amazing recipe: Roasted Corn with Manchego and Lime. Never roasted corn in my oven before. I think I’ve shucked corn once. And I have never cut corn off of a cob before using anything but my teeth. This I sincerely believe I could not have done after three beers, people. But it turned out spicy and delicious and I should probably make it again. It’s sweet and spicy at the same time and the lime lends a nice zip to it. You should try it too.

It has been very rainy here lately. We have had lots of severe thunderstorm warnings and flash flood warnings. Luckily the power hasn’t gone out for us but the weather has done a lot of damage around town. Up here the worst I’ve seen is the roads around our house closed due to flooding. A wash runs over two main roads that we take to get home. Promises of a bridge in the next couple of years have been made. More importantly though, all this water has brought to my attention the need to rebuild my firepit to allow for more drainage. After it rained for several hours a few days ago, the firepit was reduced to the beginnings of a wishing well. backyard flood
Also, in the foreground of the above image, you will notice the lake that collects on the west side of my backyard. There is a small hole in the wall on that side of the yard for drainage. You can all see how effective it is. This adds another project to the list: leveling the yard and figuring out the lake situation. I don’t always want to have to put a towel down in front of the dog door. This could be particularly bad as the dogs get older and the floor gets tiled.
I will say that my sons had a spectacular time playing in the mud the following day. Also, we have an empty desert lot very near to our house that accepts a lot of the rainfall runoff from the street. My neighbor called to inform me that she was making us drinks — fresh strawberry basil lemonade with vodka, lucky me! — and the boys and I were to put on our shoes and meet her outside, as we were all going to the lot to meet and play with a few of the other neighborhood boys. Which we did and had a great time.
Lastly, I want to tell you all what happened in my living room when all the lights were off. The boys were freshly laid in their beds and I was reading random nonsense on my phone while sitting on the couch. My big [baby of a] dog started sniffing the floor by one of the walls and would repeatedly buck up like the horse that he is. That only ever means one thing: whatever he’s sniffing is alive. If it’s dark in the room and I can see whatever it is moving, it’s probably a tarantula. When my darling sons let the dogs back in, they were way too busy to close the door so the spider felt welcome. This is what he looked like right before I swore at him for being in the house, swore at the dog for continually attacking it (I later looked it up and they aren’t poisonous, just menacing), tried not to swear at the boys for getting out of bed to see why I was swearing, crated the dog, used a broom to sweep it off the back of the tv (those things make a loud thud if they hit the floor) and eventually swore and shooed it out of the house:

TARANTULA
This was the first time I’ve ever had a tarantula in my dwelling. I’ve seen several and I think they’re pretty cool but it’s a little different in closed quarters with my precious dependents, furry or not. A couple nights later, I caught my big dog growling at the door, something he never does. I thought someone was walking by or had parked randomly in front of the house. Turns out the tarantula was hanging out on the front porch, possibly laying in wait for my beloved gecko. It eventually walked away. Guess dogs do have hard feelings.
It’s a lovely rainy breezy night tonight. Time to open up the windows and enjoy it while I sleep. Good night, readers. Thanks for stopping by.


In the Garage

I would just like to paint a picture for all of you tonight. For the last two to three days, my nose and sinuses have been going haywire. I’ve had headaches and sneezes and congestion and have generally been laying low. I have also been blowing my nose like crazy so it’s very red and irritated. I decided to [finally] start on the second, hideous, kitchen drawer. I bought sandpaper last week sometime with intentions to get started that afternoon. There are a few different kinds of sandpaper that I was introduced to that day. There’s a fine sandpaper for finishing your projects, an “in-between-layers” paper, a medium grade paper, and lastly, a stripping paper. If you remember, the drawer was FULL of paint, glue, nails, cracks, screws, and grief. Naturally. I bought the heavy duty paper ($8 for three triangles to fit on my Black & Decker Mouse sander!!).
SO I decided tonight would be the perfect night to treat my nose to a little Vaseline, put on mismatched pajamas, crack open a Sam Adams Summer Ale, start a load of laundry, plug in the sander and give that drawer what’s coming to it. I pulled a little stool I have into the open half of the garage. The plan was to use the stool as a table to avoid sanding any part of my fingers or legs. The only outlet on that side of the garage is conveniently located in the ceiling. If memory serves, the former owner had a work area in the nook on that side. I have a tiny stool and the sander does not have that long of a cord. There is a built-in cabinet close to the outlet (6 plugs can fit in at once if I so choose to do that) so I opened up the door so that I could put the sander on one of the higher shelves if necessary.
sander setup
There I was all set up to restore the drawer when I realized I didn’t grab or locate my safely goggles. We all know I need them. I looked everywhere in the garage, every hook, every drawer and shelf, even a bowl with paint stuff in it. Nothing. Then the dog started barking. Inside the house. I let him outside and returned to the garage when I remembered that the last time I used them was when I was sawing a hole in the wall for the dog door. I found the goggles! On a shelf with the incomplete dog door, but that’s neither here nor there.

safety/beer goggles

Ready to sand!


I finally got to work and I got some of the paint off but a lot of it is under an ugly layer of glue and nails and screws. What I think is funny is that the former owner built the cabinets and drawers and shelves that are in the garage by hand and they’re great. He did a really nice job with them. I just don’t know why there had to be this much glue involved. As I was sanding my oldest son came to the garage and scared the hell out of me. I didn’t scream that time though. He wanted to tell me about a dream he had yesterday about the power going out. After he went back to bed I tried to grind off the rest of the glue but some of it is here to stay, folks. post-sanding
In addition, some of the drawer itself is also damaged so I think I’ll need some different wood clamps to get everything to stay in place properly as it dries. I definitely need to invest in some quality cabinetry at some point though. Don’t want anyone lamenting the cabinets I left them with down the line . . .


Burgers, Beer, and S’mores

Last night was the virgin voyage of our firepit. Finally! I now really want to make the firepit permanent. The boys didn’t get a chance to roast marshmallows on a recent camping trip and we had the bag laying around. The first thing I did when I got home was soak the bamboo skewers. I don’t know why I soaked three as I really don’t like marshmallows.
I made burgers for dinner, which I thought would be perfect for our outside plans for later. I topped them with avocado, peppered bacon, tomato, and pepperjack cheese. Yesterday morning my neighbors donated half of a huge watermelon to us because wouldn’t fit in their cooler for their weekend lake trip. Watermelon goes beautifully with a burger. As well as beer. I bought a Sam Adams Summer Ale and the kids got root beer.
We ate dinner at about 6:30 and at that time the sun’s still pretty high. I finally cut up some of the bigger branches from the bushes from the front yard to keep the fire going. The fire’s been built for about a month, I just didn’t have the chance to light it. I think I was waiting for someone to share it with too but who the hell matters more than my wonderful sons? I also moved the patio chairs over next to the pit and brought over a short table alongside the chairs so the boys could make their treats there.
So around 7:45 I brought out the graham crackers with little chocolate bars on them and the skewers and of course extra marshmallows. And a fourth beer (which is a lot for a toothpick like me). The boys came outside with me and we got ready for the fire! The kids went nuts when I lit the fire and it burned nicely. They got out of their chairs and ran around a little bit. Next time I will add larger firewood toward the beginning as it didn’t catch fire very well after I added it. This time it was okay because the boys needed to go to bed anyway but I am happy with the way it turned out. Only two marshmallows were lost to the flames. They get really soft when heated! The boys enjoyed their treat though. It’s good to have them home and it’s good to be their mother.
I can’t wait till the next time we have a firepit night. It’s too windy now and it has come to my attention that Arizona is under a “no burn order” right now. Soon. I have plenty of things left to burn up in this backyard.