Random Monday Stuff

  • Here’s a much better view of the tree that fell in our yard. I have to say I’m not going to miss it when it’s gone.

bigtree

  • Do you remember that thing about the woman from J. Crew who painted her son’s toenails pink? I’m officially a member of team little boys with pink toenails, if that’s even a team. A few weeks ago when I was painting my toenails (I’ve never had a professional pedicure — how weird is that), I had Soren pick the color. I gave him three or four choices, and of course he picked pink. He loves pink. Then he wanted pink toes, too, so I just did his big toes. Yesterday I was bored with my pink nails and put a coat of pink glitter over them. Of course, Soren wanted pink glitter toenails, too. And so it came to be that he has pink glitter toenails. (For the record, I am better at doing my own toes than this hack job toddler pedicure would indicate.) I even painted my fingernails last night, which I’ve done, like, twice in the last 15 years or so. I’d post a picture, but my hands are fug and even Instagram doesn’t help.

skull shirt

  • I ran 6.54 miles in an hour yesterday. That’s fast for me. It was great, until I had runner’s tummy all afternoon.
  • Holy crap I’m boring today. Sorry. I’ll try to get a July 4 party playlist up before the 4th.

The Tree Catastrophe

So I got home from work today to find this madness (sorry about the as usual bad, unedited iPhone photos).

UntitledUntitledThe neighbors's tree fell on our yard.UntitledDowned power line!Untitledso a tree fell in our yardso a tree fell in our yard

Our neighbors had this tree that was gigantic and dying. Their landlord (she lived there when we moved in but now rents the house) had been trying to have the tree taken out, but there were bees living in it, so she had to have a guy come out and get rid of the bees before another guy would come out and get rid of the tree.

And so it came to be that while waiting for this to happen, nature was all, haha fuck you people and your plans, and that gigantic dying tree just snapped in two and the big part fell across our yard and the next neighbor’s yard. The good news is that no people or animals were hurt (Update: There were two pigeon casualties. :( ) and no houses or cars suffered any damage. And the downed power line was dead, having been snapped right off the live wires behind the houses (of course I didn’t know that as I mountain-goated in my platform shoes over the thing when I got home).

The bad news isn’t even all that bad. Neighbor landlord is awesome and has already been out to check out the damage and has offered to pay for anything that needs to be fixed. Her tree guy will take care of the tree within the next few days and we’ll get as much free mulch as we want. But, the bad news is that our little baby tree in our front yard was snapped like the little twig it pretty much was, and all that’s left is a little branch Ben broke off for me and one leaf and one set of bright red helicopters that I carefully placed between pages of the biggest book I have (Colorado Real Property Law, a book I cite checked back in my freelance days — it was a tossup between that and the Nowak and Rotunda constitutional law hornbook). One section of our fence was taken out, but it’s just chain link so easy to replace (and it wasn’t the section that’s now completely covered with ivy, so that’s awesome).

And — ugh, I don’t even want to talk about this part, but the most traumatic thing about having a gigantic tree fall in our yard is the fact that I had to see the freakishly gigantic beehive that had been lurking inside the tree for who knows how long. Our yard is swarming (no exaggeration — you can hear the yard buzzing — don’t go out there!) with bees. Wait, not just bees. Bees, wasps, hornets, whatever flying things that were living in the ecosystem of that crazy tree. And I don’t mind any of these guys themselves. It’s the nests. We’ve had wasps building nests on our fence every day for weeks and I’ve been traumatized by their nests, but gigantor beehive was even worse. Oh man that shit freaks me right out. It’s that same feeling people get about lotus seed pods — do you know what I’m talking about? There’s a word for that but I can’t google it because sometimes when you google shit like that, pictures come up and I can’t even. Now I’m getting the crawlies and I’m going to lie awake tonight thinking about beehives and that’s so stupid but damn those things freak me out. So anyway, let’s never speak of the nests of bugs again. Deal?

And I know this is silly, especially in light of the hundreds of people in Colorado who have lost their homes this week, but I’ll miss you, little tree.

our tree

Swamp Coolers

Or evaporative coolers if you want to be correct and less, um, swampy.

evaporative cooler

We live in a 124-year-old house that does not have central air conditioning. In the past, we made do with one or two old window-unit air conditioners, but for how much it cost to run those things, they didn’t do a very good job of keeping our drafty house cool.

So on a 90+ degree day a few weeks ago, we bought and installed an evaporative cooler (we got this one). All I can really say about it is that it’s the greatest thing in the history of the world. (Please note: This is not a sponsored post. Sorry if it sounds like it is. I’m in love with an appliance.) (Also if you want to learn more about evaporative coolers, check out the Wikipedia page.)

Within an hour, the swamp cooler (Ben and I both independently determined that he should be called “Bob,” which is weird and annoying and I promise we are not in the habit of naming household items) cooled the temperature in our living room/dining room from 81 degrees to 70 degrees. We left Bob (sorry) running all night and woke up to a 60-degree living room (brrrrr).

Unlike our old air conditioners, Bob cools the whole house. The trick is — and this seems weird — to leave doors and windows open in the areas you want to cool. Generally, we leave our back door and bedroom window open, which helps to distribute the cool air throughout the house.

Another awesome thing — in Colorado, our electric company (Xcel) offers rebates when you buy an evaporative cooler (more info. here). We’ll be getting $250. When you add that to what we’ll save in energy costs this summer (running a swamp cooler is way cheaper and more environmentally friendly than running old, inefficient air conditioners), Bob will have almost paid for himself (sorry, that’s just weird but now I can’t stop) by the end of summer.

If you’re not familiar with evaporative coolers, there’s one thing you should know. They smell when they’re running, at least for a while. At first, the smell was really strong and bothered me. Since then, it has mellowed and now it’s either gone or I’m used to it and don’t notice it. According to Ben, the smell comes from the cardboard filter, which is made from aspen trees. So it’s nothing chemical/unhealthy/creepy — it’s just a little different.

At least now we’re ready for this shit, which, as I am wont to say, WTF.

yeeeeeesh

Our Garden: February 2012

During the weekend of The Great Denver Blizzard of 2012 (don’t believe the hype — it wasn’t all that), my thoughts turned to our garden. That doesn’t really make sense, but this always happens to me in February. Nothing against winter, but after the holiday sparkle of December and the glorious2012 garden: February new year of January, by February I’m thinking about spring and summer. The good news is that there are some gardening-related things you can do in February. Here’s what I’m doing this month.

1. Learn from last year’s mistakes.

Last year, I made some of the same mistakes I always make (this year will be different!). I ended up getting my seeds started too late. I started everything at the same time and wasn’t with it enough to start cool-weather veggies like lettuce early. The biggest mistake of all? Too much damn zucchini and yellow squash. No disrespect to zucchini, which is awesome, and yellow squash, which, truth be told I don’t like as much because it develops a pretty thick skin when you let them get big, which you’re bound to do when your shit gets all overgrown and you don’t even see the gigantic squashes lurking under all the foliage, but they kind of took over the garden, crowding out some of the other veggies like cucumbers, bless their hearts they never had a chance. As much as I enjoyed writing my “WTF to do with all this zucchini” posts, too much is more than enough. This year, I think we can get by with one (maybe 2) zucchini plants and one yellow squash plant.

2. Plan and get some seeds.

Our 2012 garden will be our 2011 garden +. The “plus” means we’re adding variety. We have leftover seeds (in the freezer) of everything we planted last year. I hope these work. I’m also planting:

  • moon cake edamame (edamame is one of Soren’s favorite things in the world; it’s also a fantastic snack to take to baseball games)
  • rainbow chard
  • De Cicco broccoli
  • Bloomsdale spinach
  • Hanover salad (spring) kale
  • Connecticut field pumpkin (good for carving)
  • Victoria rhubarb
  • valerian
  • calendula
  • evergreen hardy white onion (bunching)
  • wild garden lettuce mix
  • Cisineros grande tomatillo.

Oh, and I have some arugula seeds, too. This is quite ambitious for our limited space (and time), but I’m hoping for the best. My plan is to plan (that’s probably the point of a plan) well enough to get cool-weather veggies like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, lettuce, spinach, chard, etc. out there early. If they’re still hanging in there when the warm-weather stuff like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash are ready, cool; if not, we’ll have more room for the new guys.

I order most of my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Also! I’m happy to report that I found some super-helpful and free info. about Denver gardening on the internet:

3. Start composting.

Okay, yeah, if you’re a good gardener and/or hippie, unlike me, you probably already do this. But we’re just about to get started (finally). Because we have dogs who eat things, we need something covered, but I was horrified by the cost of compost bins ($100-200, what?). So what to do? We bought two 32-gallon trash cans from Home Depot ($15.47 each) and we’re going to drill some holes in them and hope for the best (I’m thinking something like this or this — I like the second option because it doesn’t require screens and seems easier). I also got a little fancy and ordered this compost bin for the kitchen ($19.99). So, $50 and a little effort and we’ll be keeping stuff out of landfills and providing luscious compost for our garden soon. Yay!

4. Start making toilet-paper-roll seed pots.toilet paper roll seed pot

We usually buy one of those plastic seed-starting things with the little compartments and the cover. These are nice in theory and great for the early days, but I always run into trouble because plants grow at different rates and I end up with tomatoes and peppers that don’t fit under the lid and want to get outside in the sun and leggy little lettuce sprouts that aren’t ready for that madness.

Then I found this awesome post about using tp rolls to make seed pots. It’s environmentally friendly, free, and, well, fantastic. I’m not that good at it yet and mine don’t really like to stand up on their own, but I’m sure that once they’re filled with starter mix and next to each other on some sort of tray, it’ll all be good. Getting an early start on this project means I should have plenty of seed pots by the time I need them.

5. Be a total dork about gardening.

I think I have that one covered. I can’t wait ’til summer!

Gang Graffiti (SUCKS!!!!)

There’s a cool building near Curtis Park I often pass on the way home from the gym (the old Denver Enterprise Center, which appears to have never been renovated). Today, I noticed that the 30th street side of the building was covered with gang tags. That’s pretty lame.

Gang graffiti happens in our neighborhood all the time, but I think its heyday was in 2009, when I took these pictures.

Tagsblazer1???not sure about this oneShadow

As I said back then on Flickr, I’m not sure who these kids are, but this is pretty weak. Is it blazer or blaser? Either way, why? Does a 1 with a circle around it mean that was some guy’s first tag ever and, if so, don’t they train these people any more? What’s up with the lone D-looking thing? Is it a flag like one that would be used for golf? Is it a pointy boob? Did they get interrupted and, if so, why weren’t they bad ass enough to come back and finish later? Are they soft? Is Shadow someone’s little brother who tagged along (punny!) with his Crayolas? If you’re out tagging shit, isn’t your tag your logo? Wouldn’t you want it to at least look kind of cool? Where is the pride in workmanship here? I find this whole thing very disappointing.

Whenever we’ve been tagged, we just paint over it. The time we got tagged twice in one week, I said we should paint our garage and fence black, but we never did.

To tell you the truth, though, I’d like to be a little more aggressive in my response to gang graffiti. I’d like to make it better. I think this stems from the fact that I’m an editor. I want to edit gang graffiti.

For example, after “blazer” up there, I could add “sucks.” After “Shadow,” I could put “is an asshole.” An East Side Insane Gangsta Clown Posse tag could be followed by “MOLESTS CHILDREN.”

Eventually, because what good is anything these days if you can’t make money off of it, I could design and produce my own line of gang-tag-fighting Fatheads. The first product would be a giant version of this you could stick on any reasonably clean outdoor surface, including walls, garage doors, and fences:

I’ve never understood these Calvin peeing things, but now I see the appeal. Just slap one on the wall and have the pee stream end right above the offending tag.

The store would also carry black ski masks and other items to ensure any witnesses will not be able to identify you to the local gangstas, as well as red editing spray paint. I’m sure it’ll be a huge success, at least until I’m shot in a drive-by.

Train Sets

train settrain settrain set

I had a teeny tiny train set when I was a kid. It had some tracks and just an engine with no cars. The coolest feature was a u-shaped bridge portion of track that flipped from one side to the other to allow the train to cross. Does that even make sense? A plain old bridge would’ve served the same purpose, but the u-shaped thing that flipped was the coolest, ever. It was the garden-variety kind of toy kids had in the 70s, made of plastic. It instilled in me a deep appreciation of decidedly non-hippie, non-wooden train sets, the kind to which I’d normally be predisposed, I guess you could say.

Soren got a train set last year for Christmas. It sat in boxes under his crib until today. We wanted to wait until he was old enough to handle it. There are some toys you give a kid the second you get them, but some toys have to wait. You have to attain a certain level of maturity as a young boy before you have a train set in your bedroom. This is the toddler version of getting a phone in your room. (I know the phone-in-room thing is over and Soren will not have this experience. I was a teenager. My phone was beige and had push buttons, which was pretty fancy. At first I couldn’t call out on it because we had rotary service. It looked like something you’d find in the office of your first job, which, if you were me, was at a stupid telemarketing place where you called people up to ask for donations so some blind kids could go to a children’s show or some shit. You could pry the piece around the numbers off and hide stuff in there. Of course it had a cord.)

He seemed to like it. His favorite part was flipping the switch on the remote back and forth to make the train start, make noise, stop, start, make noise, stop, start, go backward, etc. Somehow this endeavor set off the smoke/carbon monoxide detector in his room. “Beep! Beep! Evacuate! Smoke in the area.” There was no smoke. Just trains. (No carbon monoxide, either, because you know I freaked out about it for a second.)

Another cool thing about having a kid is that it makes you remember random things from your childhood that were always there in your memory but you didn’t always think to access. Once in a while, I’d think about my little train set maybe around Christmas, when you might think about things like trains set up under trees and how that seems like a cool idea, at least if you don’t have 1,000 animals who would sabotage that shit. But now it’s like, yeah, I had this experience when I was a kid and now I’m passing on that same experience to you.

I think about the experiences we’re passing on to Soren all the time. Sometimes I kind of freak out about it. I hope it’s not just us. Maybe it’s somewhat of a generational thing. I feel like I’m the first in a long time who can’t offer my child a better standard of living than what my parents offered me. It’s a classic tale — my dad and his family were immigrants, United States, better life, etc., and he succeeded at that and I had a cushy life full of skateboards and Barbie dream houses and one day my own (modest, used) car and we lived in a nice house in the suburbs in an area where people were willing to pay taxes to fund schools. And I look at Ben and me and, well, we’re hippies and/or the kind of self-involved Gen-Xers who could make gobs more money than we do (I could’ve gone to BigLaw! But I’d bet you anything that had I done that, I’d be (1) a cokehead or (2) angry and Soren wouldn’t even exist so point = moot and I believe my career choices to date have rendered me untouchable by large law firms now so oops.) but don’t because it kills our souls so we’re dirt poor living in a hovel in the hood and I wonder whether, on some level, being true to myself is worth it in light of the fact that I sometimes feel like I’m failing my child by not giving him the life I had. Maybe we’re doing okay because at least as things stand in 2011, I think, on balance, it’s better to raise a kid a little poor than a little rich because struggle leads to good things and privilege leads to entitlement, but let’s be honest it’s kind of a crapshoot.

Recognizing that a lot of what you do while raising a child is kind of a crapshoot is pretty comforting. We just do the best we can with the information and skills we have, and hope for the best.