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Archive for the ‘little house in the hood’ tag

Coffee Table Update (Woo!)

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In case you were wondering about our exciting coffee table acquisition (I’m sure you weren’t, but), we went with Option 1. (You can get one of your own here. Make sure to google “overstock coupon code” before buying anything there.)

coffee tablecoffee table

Sorry about the bad pictures — I don’t really know what to do about the lighting situation in here. The table is a huge improvement from the old, trashed ottoman. Yay!

Written by Tracy

September 11th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Replacement Parts

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living room improvements

Quick! What’s the ugliest thing in this living room?

It’s the hiddy blanket-covered ottoman monstrosity, right?

Under that blanket lurks an ottoman that used to be awesome but now is completely covered with catGhetto Decorating Tips scratches (see the old picture at right; it looks even worse now). It also, as of this week, has a giant hole on top where somebody apparently tried to peel it apart. Even so, we’ve been trying to get by with this ugly thing because, well, aside from the spending fast, my problems with replacing our trashed ottoman are twofold. First, I didn’t want to replace a soft ottoman with a hard coffee table while we had a baby who was just learning to walk because I didn’t want him to hurt himself on the table. Second, I didn’t want to replace the soft ottoman with another soft ottoman because, if I’ve learned anything during my years on this planet, I’ve learned that cats will scratch the ever-lovin’ hell out of soft furniture such as an ottoman, which, deliciously, is generally available for scratching from every angle.

We’ve been scraping by with this thing by keeping a blanket over it to hide the destruction. This approach has many problems including but not limited to the following: you can’t tell from the above photo because the blanket is totally off center for purposes of taking that photo, but the blanket doesn’t actually cover all the damage; Soren, who can walk without falling into furniture now, pulls the blanket off pretty much every day, so if he’s awake, we usually throw the blanket in our room so he can’t drag it around the house and get fur all over it, which means we have to look at this thing all the time; the blanket is always covered with cat fur, which never comes off completely even after being washed; and honestly, that shit is just janky as hell. If I recall correctly, I included a disclaimer in my spending fast that allows for replacement of necessary items. Arguably, a coffee table is a necessary item in our house.

So tonight I’m drinking beer and looking at coffee tables on the internet. (It doesn’t get more exciting than this, folks.) I would prefer to not spend a ton of $$ on this, but I’d like to get something that will last for a long time, because we tend to keep stuff forever, or at least until it gets to the point of our current ottoman, which pretty much makes me embarrassed to have people over to our house (not kidding).

The room looks the same as the top picture, minus the floor lamp (it was wobbly but we hope to fix it up one day because I love it). So it’s pretty much beige, sage green, and brown. It’s a long, narrow room so a square table wouldn’t work. I want something modern (if I had a style, it would be 70s Miami socialite grandma) and reasonably durable. We won’t have the current sectional forever, but I’d replace it with something similar. I don’t mind mismatched wood. I don’t like tables that are predominantly metal or glass.

After scouring thousands of websites (I exaggerate), I’ve found three options I like:

coffee table options

Option 1

coffee table options

Option 2

coffee table options

Option 3

(Option 3 would be two of those, connected to form a coffee table.)

So far, I have a favorite and Ben has a favorite. Prices are, in no particular order, cheap as hell, reasonable, and expensive.

I’ll keep you posted, hopefully soon!

Written by Tracy

September 3rd, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Just another day in the ‘hood….

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This morning, Ben came in from taking out the garbage (this involves taking the garbage down to the end of the alley and putting it in a dumpster) and said, “You might want to turn on the scanner.” Apparently, he had just seen a Jeep driving really, really, really fast down Bruce Randolph toward Downing, with police in pursuit.

By the time I had the scanner up and running, I heard stuff like: 22nd and Downing, someone shot in the head and shoulder, suspect down, and hey let’s all switch to the secret police channel where people can’t listen to us. I was all ????

Apparently this is what was happening. Well, shit.

This kind of stuff is hard for me to process sometimes. I mean, here’s the thing. I’m a hippie. I’m never in favor of people being killed. I used to be a public defender. I know how the system is stacked against you if you’re accused of a crime.

The thing is, though, and I have to be honest now even if it’s not what I would consider appealing. I have a kid. I live in the hood. I worry about shit like home invasion. I worry about shit that happens to completely innocent people in this neighborhood. I’m never in favor of people being killed. But if I’m really honest, which I have to be because if I’m not really honest what am I, I’m not going to cry any tears for this guy who, assuming what I’ve read and heard is true, invaded a home in my neighborhood, tied up a man, sexually assaulted a woman and did something that resulted in her bleeding from her face and screaming naked on her porch, stole her car, drove at a high rate of speed through a residential neighborhood where innocent people live with their families (this I know for a fact because Ben saw it himself), and was shot in the head and killed.

I don’t like having feelings like this. It’s hard, sometimes, to balance the rage I felt as a public defender representing people who were pulled over and charged with crimes for completely bullshit reasons, more often than not because of their race, with the feelings I have living in the hood where terrible, awful crimes are committed all the time and more often than not, the perpetrators are never caught. I want to be careful to try to maintain the middle ground here, to never be swayed to one extreme or the other. It’s not always easy.

Sometimes I have terrible dreams. They usually involve a large-scale attack on me and real or imaginary people I’m with by people or entities who are evil in some way and want to either kill us or hurt us and make us evil. I don’t know if this is something that happens to people who worry about shit like this or whether it’s a reflection of my general anxiety level, which to tell you the truth has been pretty high lately and I’m not sure I can tell you why other than that’s just what happens to me sometimes. I try to keep it in check, you know? It’s not always easy, but I consider it my job as a human to try to do it to the best of my ability, whatever that means. If we’re not trying to make ourselves better, what are we doing?

Written by Tracy

August 6th, 2011 at 9:37 pm

The Same Sky

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This is the viewWhether you’re in a fancy infinity pool on the grounds of a palatial estate or a cheap above-ground deal set up on a weird slab of concrete between fences and a garage that desperately needs to be painted, when you’re floating around on a raft and you look up, you see the same sky (although maybe you’re not plagued by those little gnatty guys like we are). It’s cloudy here in Denver today, but nothing is more relaxing for me than floating around in the pool for a while.

Written by Tracy

June 12th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Hood Gardening Tips for your Front Yard

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Now that Mother’s Day has passed, it’s finally safe to plant stuff in your yard. Yay! Here are a few tips on establishing and maintaining your front yard in a hood-appropriate manner.

1. This requires some unrealistic luck and planning, but if possible, buy a house from hippies. I don’t mean to stereotype, but hippies are often excellent gardeners. We were lucky enough to do this and our front yard is xeriscaped through no effort of our own.

If you don’t manage to buy a house from hippies, I recommend planting some perennials in your front yard. Perennials that do well in the Denver area (by “do well” I mean stuff the former homeowners planted that we haven’t killed) include: irises, false indigo, lavender, crocuses, and drought-friendly ornamental grasses. There are a few perennials in our front yard I haven’t identified (I will update here if/when I someday figure out what they are). Our front yard has passively acquired a lush crop of Virginia creeper from our back yard and the neighbors’ yard. Virginia creeper is all over Denver. I’d be happy to give you some for free. It’s great for dressing up a chain-link fence, but be careful, because it’s very aggressive.

2. Take advantage of free shit. If you can be quick (Free stuff goes fast!) and are able to stomach the farm and garden classifieds on Craigslist (I have a hard time because there are horrible animal things, like bunnies for pets or food.), there’s often free stuff to be had there. Also, when you live in the hood, there’s a good chance someone somewhere wants to encourage and assist you in improving your yard. Look for programs like Denver Digs Trees (free trees for certain neighborhoods) or the neighborhood garden festival (free seeds and nice plants). If you benefit from any of these programs, consider giving back by volunteering. (Trust me, you’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling when you take a walk in your hood and see new trees you helped get planted.)

3. Find a cheap place to buy shit. You can buy dirt, plants, and planters from Home Depot or Lowe’s. If you’re a rich person who likes to support local business, you can buy your stuff from Paulino Gardens, which is very, very nice and has an amazing selection. Chances are, though, you’re not living in the hood because you’re rolling in cash. In that case, you don’t want to spend a lot on plants. This means you want to go to Al’s Pine Garden and Nursery. Like Paulino, it’s a local business. Unlike Paulino, it’s tiny and cheap as hell. Spikes and vinca vines for your planters are $.99. (They also have a nice selection of hot pepper seedlings you can’t find anywhere else.) Buying stuff here means you’re in for a little extra work. When you get petunias, for example, you get a bunch of petunia plants growing in one container (instead of one petunia plant per individual cell like you get at the more expensive stores). You’ll just have to dig out each plant with a little garden shovel, and the really tiny ones might not make it. It’s okay, though, because if you follow my next tip, you should have a few backup petunias, just in case you need them.

4. Don’t overfill your planters. In fact, you should underfill them. You want them to look sad and desolate at first. This is for two reasons. First, the fewer plants you have to buy the less money you’ll spend. Second, watching the slow, gradual progress your tiny plants make is a pretty exciting thing to do when you live in the hood and don’t have much money to do anything else.

5. Use only what you need. Okay, this tip is stolen directly from Denver Water. Look. It’s dry here and the people in charge of providing our water want us to use as little as possible. That’s why they’ve set it up so the more water you use, the more expensive it gets. Don’t be one of those people who calls up Denver Water when your bill is so high you can’t believe it and has a guy come out to check your meter for leaks and while checking your meter he has to squish squish squish through your waterlogged lawn, which, by the way, is the greenest lawn on the entire block and no you don’t have a leak. (Don’t worry. This isn’t us. We don’t even have a lawn.)

6. Be prepared for some annoying maintenance. In addition to the usual garden work like weeding and watering, you’ll be picking up your share of empty Flaming Hot Cheetos bags and the occasional chicken bone that your dog tries to eat so you have to pry it out of her mouth with your fingers even though you’re a vegetarian and that totally grosses you out. At one time or another, you’ll have a plastic bag stuck in your tree or a pair of shoes over your power lines. This is annoying but hey, it’s better than people judging you for the condition of your lawn.

7. Speaking of lawns, don’t bother having one in front of your house. If you live in the hood, chances are your front yard is pretty small. Fill it with drought-tolerant perennials and be done with it. If you want a little patch of lawn for your dogs or your kid, put it in the back yard where it won’t get pooped on by random dogs, covered in litter, or dug up by some bored kid while his mom watches and doesn’t say anything.

This is an improvement.

In the hood, this is acceptable.

8. Don’t get too fancy. This is the most important tip. If you live in the hood, there ain’t nothing wrong with a little bump and grind and a chain-link fence. Using old, partially broken, mismatched, and otherwise imperfect pots and accessories is encouraged — it’s cheap, environmentally friendly, and avoids filling your yard with shit that pretty much screams, “Hey, fancy, rich people live here! Rob us!” (Of course, anybody can be burglarized, even us.) If you fill your yard with nice planters, people will just steal them anyway, even if they’re empty. One year, our plain terracotta pots were stolen. They didn’t even have plants in them at the time. Terracotta pots aren’t exactly fancy or expensive, but somebody thought they were worth stealing. We replaced them with even cheaper plastic pots. Don’t get too aggressive with pink plastic yard flamingos or other artificial fauna. Although they’re likely to establish the sense of ironic kitsch you’d like to convey, they’re just going to be jacked unless you manage to snag one kind of sorry-looking flamingo from a thrift store for like $2. That guy will probably stick around.

In terms of how nice you want your house to look from the street, count the number of houses on your block and divide by two. For example, if there are 10 houses on your block, 10 divided by 2 is 5, so you want to be approximately the 5th nicest house on the block. This means you’re not the nicest house on the block, which is going to be broken into soon, and you’re not the worst house on the block, which has at least one boarded-up window, gang symbols on the garage, and sad Christmas decorations displayed year round.

Basically, you want your yard to look nice, but not too nice. Everything in moderation, especially in the hood.

Happy gardening!

flowerssome sort of tulipsAn exceptionally modestI need to startTeeny plants!Iris
Braaaaaaaaahhhhhh!This is whatFlowers have arrived!our treeirisesearly summer

Written by Tracy

May 10th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Crime in the ‘Hood

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Yesterday afternoon as we walked home from Curtis Park, we passed a guy on 33rd wearing a red baseball hat cocked to the right. At the same time, a car drove by (and you could kind of say it drove by deliberately, whatever that might mean) and I noticed that the driver was wearing a red baseball hat. (I didn’t see what team was on the hat in either case.) “Hey,” I said to Ben, “what’s up with all these guys wearing red hats?” I hadn’t noticed a proliferation of red-hatted, young-ish, male individuals in our neighborhood before, and I always notice things like that, as a sports fan and as someone who knows something about gangs.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with the rest of the story.
My usual procedure after hearing gunshots while at home (Isn’t it awesome that I have a usual procedure for that?) involves second-guessing myself (especially during the summer, when life is but a game of “gunshots or fireworks” and you’re never sure what you jut heard) and then turning on the police scanner to make sure somebody called the police. Last night around 8:30, the gunshots were close enough and numerous enough for me to jump off the couch, look out the front window to see several people running like hell from the basketball court, and call the fuck out of 911. It’s amazing how wound up I get in this situation and how I’m capable of breathlessly confusing streets that go north/south and streets that go east/west. I overestimated the number of gunshots (Ben, a more reliable narrator, said it was maybe 8 at most). While I was on the phone, we saw the first of the flashing lights coming from the east side.

crime scene

not newsworthy

Soon after this incident, an ambulance sped away from the scene. There were many police cars and the area was taped off for approximately 2.5 hours.

When things like this happen in the hood (Look, can I get over feeling bad about saying we live in “the hood” now? I always feel kind of bad about saying it and then I act like I’m nudge-nudge-wink-winking when I say we live in “the hood,” like yeah we’re from Chicago where you better recognize and it’s The Hood, but fucked if I’m not raising my toddler in a neighborhood where gunshots are spraying over streets I can see from my house and if I want to call this the hood I’m just going to do it and be okay with it) I go through the whole range of emotions. Ben and I had a fun night after we calmed down and Soren went to bed and we talked about how this shit fucking sucks. I’m mad. I’m mad at the assholes shooting guns anywhere but especially here and the fact that the world sucks so much this is what happens to people sometimes and that we don’t have wads of cash we can use to move somewhere this doesn’t happen all the time but won’t kill our edgy urban “we’re way too cool for the suburbs no really” spirit and that so many crimes in Denver go unsolved and apparently it’s unsafe for us to be out in our neighborhood at 8:30 in the evening and that it’s the fucking wild west out here where people act like it’s offensive to pay money for things like schools and the police and I’m powerless to do anything but shake my tiny fist at the raging injustice of the whole situation (Am I?) and I could go on and on but I’m pretty sure you get the point.

Aside from all that, do you want to know what really put my rage in high gear last night? The fact that I can’t find out what the hell happened.

I knew a shooting in the hood wasn’t likely to make the news, but I shuffled around the 10:00 news offerings last night anyway. I saw stories about a guy getting arrested on an airplane, a toddler drowning in Boulder (tragic), something about child abuse, Denver Broncos cheerleaders, and Texas wildfires. Of course there was nothing about a shooting in the hood. I knew this would be the case — I didn’t see any news teams near where the shooting occurred — but my stupid false hopes made me watch.

news in the 'hood


Today I looked around on the internet and found nothing. I @ed the Denver Police on Twitter (to their credit, they asked me the time and location of the incident I was asking about, and I assume and hope they’ll get back to me eventually).* There was nothing on the news and there is nothing on the internet about the shooting that occurred on April 9, 2011 around 8:30 p.m. in the area of Bruce Randolph and Franklin and/or Gilpin in the Cole neighborhood of Denver.

I know at least Fox 31 knows this neighborhood exists, because they were out here once when a tree landed on a fence during a storm. (To their credit and if I recall correctly, I’m pretty sure Fox 31 was the only outlet to even mention the last shooting that occurred in our neighborhood.)

What the fuck? It’s not just shootings in the hood. I think shootings anywhere in a city should be newsworthy. I’d like to know when shit like this happens in my neighborhood. I mean really, think of how many times this happens and we’re not home or awake and we never know about it. Apparently there was more gunfire around 5 this morning (according to a neighbor, it sounded like a war zone out there) but we slept through it. No one person can be all eyes and ears all the time. We need to have someone to rely on, to keep us informed.

As much as I love having something to rage and bitch about, I’d like to use my anger to do something useful. I’d like to help make this situation better, at least in terms of allowing people to be informed of what’s going on in their neighborhoods. My first idea was to contact local news media and ask why they don’t cover stories like this. But then I realized that they probably don’t give a shit about these stories (if they did, they’d be covering local crimes instead of wildfires in Texas) and maybe this is another indication that traditional news media are fading into oblivion before they die. And that’s fine.

This is the age of DIY. I think it’s up to us — the people — to figure out a way to take control of the information about what’s happening around us in our neighborhoods. There has to be a way for this to happen, whether it’s something sophisticated like a super-local, micro-news show or whether it’s something as simple as a website where people can post about news as it happens. Maybe this already exists and I haven’t found it — I’ll be looking over the next few days. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to figure it out.

Feel free to email me at fanmail at hitbyapitch.com if you want to get involved and/or have ideas. Or if you know what the hell happened in my neighborhood last night.

This is a good rage song:

*The Denver Police did get back to me: “a man was shot two times while driving in the 1600 block of E. Bruce Randolph. Victim is stable.” My thoughts are with the victim and his family. Now I’m wondering whether the shooter is someone from the 1600 block of E. Bruce Randolph.

Written by Tracy

April 10th, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Preview: Our 2011 Garden

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Song: Back Up Pistol by Wick-It the Instigator
I can’t wait to start our garden this year. Seriously. If you look at our house, you’ll see me standing there with my nose pressed against the window of the back door, gazing longingly into the yard, pining for the days when it’s warm enough to be growing peppers and other delights. Those are also the days of baseball, and let me tell you, I can’t wait for that to get started, either. The White Sox are coming to Denver this year! That’s just about the most exciting thing, ever!

tomatoes and lettuce

This is from last year, which wasn't our best gardening year ever.

You won’t be shocked to hear that we’re not master gardeners or anything. What usually happens is that I plan for an elaborate onslaught of vegetables and herbs and choose and implement a color scheme of flowers for the front yard. I’m all about getting the seeds started and planting everybody, but soon after that, my interest tends to wane. In the garden, I like creating more than destroying — I love planting and hate weeding (and good lord, we get some terrible weeds here in Colorado, the likes of which I’d never seen in the midwest). As usual, I’m good at planning and big ideas and poor at follow through. This means approximately half of the vegetables don’t do very well and Ben ends up doing all the maintenance, most of which involves watering. This year, I will be better! You heard it here first!

Soren isn’t old enough to appreciate a garden, but I think that good, home-grown veggies are especially important now that we have a kid. When he’s older, I hope he’ll appreciate the work that goes into growing your own food, and I also hope that will make him enjoy the food we’ve grown more than he’d enjoy vegetables bought from the store or whatever. Maybe he’ll be more likely to enjoy tomatoes he picked out and help grow, you know? I could be full of shit, but this is my veggie-friendly vision.

Our soil is questionable. There are soil-contamination issues in our neighborhood; all yards were tested and those that had an “unacceptable” level of whatever were dug up and replaced. Our yard did not require replacement of soil, but I’m still (reasonably or unreasonably) bothered by the fact that there’s some sort of questionable shit going on out there. This means we do everything in containers, which also means we don’t have all the room in the world. If I do a good job of not flaking on the garden this year, maybe we can put in a raised bed next year. That would be fantastic.

In any event, I’ve been spending some time on the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange website, lovingly filling my cart with what will become this year’s crops. Here’s what I have so far (you’ll note we’re partial to peppers, which grow very well in sunny, hot, dry Denver):

  • Catskill (Long Island Improved) Brussels Sprouts
  • Lemon Cucumber, Pickling
  • Spacemaster Cucumber
  • Salad Bowl Lettuce, Looseleaf
  • Slo-Bolt Lettuce, Looseleaf
  • Anaheim Chile Pepper, Hot
  • Hungarian Wax (Hot Banana) Pepper
  • Jalapeno Pepper, Hot
  • Serrano Tampiqueno Pepper, Hot
  • California Wonder Pepper, Bell, Sweet
  • Early Prolific Straightneck Squash
  • Zucchini, Dark Green Squash
  • Basil, Lettuce Leaf
  • Yellow Pear Tomato (these are fabulous if, like me, you’re not a big tomato person — they have a nice, light flavor and aren’t too slimy)
  • Large Red Tomato
  • Mountain Princess Tomato
  • OTV Brandywine Tomato
  • Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin

    Yay for pumpkins!

    We grew these!

The tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, red bell pepper, yellow squash, and pumpkins are heirloom varieties, which I think is very cool.

We might add a few more things. Last year, we went to a little community garden event where they gave away a few free plants to everybody. We got pear tomato, eggplant, and pumpkin plants from that (these all did very well and the pumpkins even threatened to take over our whole yard — we planted them in the ground because we weren’t going to eat them). (I’m not sure if they’ll be doing this event again this year, but here’s where I found out about it last year. It was a lot of fun and they even served vegetarian tamales. I’ll let you know if I hear anything!)

I’m still working on the color scheme for the front yard. I think I did pink and white last year, but usually, for whatever reason, I’m drawn to purple and orange. I should try to do something different this year. Maybe blue? I’m not sure. In any event, I know I’ll post way too many pictures of the yard, because apparently taking 900 pictures of everything (and being hyperbolic with numbers) is my thing these days.

Written by Tracy

February 27th, 2011 at 6:35 pm