joanna irl

Container garden: refreshed!

container garden, refreshed

This weekend, I made a project of refreshing my container garden on the back porch. My annuals had either started to die or just looked kind of bad, except for a couple here and there. I combined those remaining petunias and snap dragons into one pot (the one kind of in the middle, wide and gray looking) and replaced the hanging baskets with succulents.

Container garden, succulents

I have two succulents from before, an aloe and another that I’ve no idea the species, but they’re both doing really well on the back porch and I figured more couldn’t hurt. They’re good  when I forget to water them (which happens… I look out at the porch a lot but don’t GO out there every day), and they’re pretty cheap to buy. I got ten different kinds of tiny baby succulents. The kind of silvery one on the far right in this photo is called “Panda plant!” A lot of them have fun names, actually. From left to right in the front I have a “Powder puff” pchyveria, a golden sedum, and the panda plant. In the back is a crassula variety (non-specified) and a rainbow elephant bush. So fun!

container garden, succulents

I tried to choose plants that were different but complementary colors, and that had a variety of shapes to them to make the container interesting. This one has five different types. The one in the front of the shot is an echeveria “topsy turvy,” then a gibbaeum heathii and a purple scallops plant behind it, then a California sunset graptosedum, and the one in the back is a variety of jade plant called, I’m not kidding, Gollum. It was cool looking AND named for a Lord of the Rings character. Awesome!

container garden, daisies

The rest of the plants are mostly okay. My daisy has bloomed again, though it looks like it’s getting ready to go dormant for winter after this. The lavender didn’t survive at all, and I replaced it with a burgundy mum. The tree fern developed a weird yellow fungus type thing in its roots, so it died and I replaced it with a big succulent called a jelly bean (or pork and beans… but I like jelly bean better!) plant that I forgot to photograph. Anyway, the garden looks much happier now and I hope most of the succulents survive.

joanna irl

Living Room, at last

Over the weekend, J and I finally (FINALLY!) got rid of the last of our “extra” stuff. We donated the vast majority of it (including the last of our free furniture from when we were first married) to a local group that runs three thrift stores that benefit disabled veterans– Disabled American Veteran Thrift Stores. If you happen upon this and are in San Diego, I recommend them. They were easy to contact (there’s a form online to fill out), they come pick up your donations, and will take anything, including old TVs.

At any rate, we have been climbing over things ever since we first took delivery of our belongings back in October. True, we’ve only really been here for about two months, but it’s been a long, slow process to unpack and organize. The square footage (in terms of actual living space) is about the same as our house in Hawaii; the bedrooms are even a little bigger, I think. The difference is that we no longer have our own garage, and we don’t have storage space, except the two bedroom closets. So bear in mind: we lost a garage (which held all of the camping and outdoor gear), a large storage closet (we also had one in Virginia and it held all of the seasonal decor, including my plethora of Christmas stuff), a backyard storage closet (for all of the gardening and yard equipment), and (this is a bigger one than you might think), a staircase with hallway. So all of those thing I listed had to either go away, or find a home inside our condo.

Losing a hallway and staircase is having a bigger impact that we expected. There is no separation between anything, and the bedrooms open off of the living room. You would think that might increase the living space, and it probably does a bit, but there’s something visually about having two separate floors, or at least having the bedrooms in their own part of the house. Here everything feels on top of everything else.

The good thing that came out of all of this is that J and I have had to be smart in our downsizing. We finally had a reason to get rid of the “just in case” and streamline. We also got the push to pass on the things passed to us (like an end table from a neighbor in Virginia) that we don’t have use for anymore. And we discovered what was important to us, because we worked REALLY hard to find a way to keep certain things (like our saddleback bar stools that I love but don’t have a breakfast bar for them at the moment). We talked about renting a storage unit, but the cost (and the effort of having stuff in another place) was really more than we wanted.

At the end of it all, we wound up becoming extremely organized, moreso than either of us is naturally, and fit quite a bit. I’d say we gave away about 25% of our things when it was all said and done, which feels good now but was exhausting at the time.

So now, without further rambling, here’s the (finally put together and mostly organized) condo!

Continue reading “Living Room, at last”

joanna irl

Halloween Kitties and other shenanigans

Wow, it’s been a long time since I last posted. No internet in our new residence has posed more of a restriction than I thought. So here’s the mini-update:

J and I rented a place in San Diego– YAY!
We went to Disneyland for 3 days for my birthday weekend (first time he’s spent my actual birthday with me in years)– YAY!
J checked into his new command and a week later deployed– BOO!
I managed to get all of the boxes opened and mostly unpacked and put away in a week– YAY!
And now I’m in North Carolina and reunited with my kittens– YAY
Today is Halloween– YAY!

The wind and rain from hurricane Sandy has blown down a lot of our fall leaves, and since it’s been cloudy this past week I haven’t gotten many good photos like I did last year. Maybe in the next week or so it’ll clear enough that I’ll get some. At any rate, I offer here some kitty photos, since it’s been three months since I’ve had any to share. ^_^

Continue reading “Halloween Kitties and other shenanigans”

joanna irl

Bookshelf Shopping: Take 1

Actual Conversation I just had with Furniture Store Employee:

I went into a few furniture stores today to look at bookshelves. I’ve reached the point where I can no longer squeeze all of my books onto the shelves that survived the move– two broke, and I gave away enough books at the time to be okay with that, but now I’ve acquired enough books that I really do need another shelf. So today I went around to start pricing them, just to get an idea what type of investment it might be; I don’t want to buy something else that will break easily. 

After pricing bookshelves at a few places, I decided that I needed to find out what a “real” furniture store charges for them so I’d have some basis of comparison. I really prefer to buy “real” things (i.e. real wood) and only need something small to medium-sized.

Walking through the store demonstrated that “leather” sofas just aren’t the quality they once were, and that most furniture all looks the same. When I finally reached the back, they only had two bookshelves for sale, both of them $400 and both of them pressed board with laminant on them.

Do people not read anymore? I guess not. I’ve had a hard time finding shelves everywhere, but no trouble finding TV stands. Le sigh.

As I was running my hand over the shelf (checking quality, which was, as I said, poor), an employee walked up to me and asked if I was finding everything okay. (Why is this the phrase people use? Why not, “Can I help you with anything?”)

Me: Well, I’m looking for bookshelves, but these are laminant and $400. That seems like a lot.
Employee: That’s because those are real wood veneer.
Me: Veneer? So still basically a laminant. And for $400, way overpriced.

She got extremely huffy and walked away without saying another word. No one else asked me how I was finding things the rest of the time I was in the store.

Real wood veneer. *sigh*

joanna irl

Sometimes settling in takes a minute

And sometimes settling in takes, oh, almost two and a half years.

Today I finally found the last piece I wanted to go in the weird wall space above the stairs. It’s been bothering me ever since we moved into the house in October 2009. During the holidays, it’s all right because I can put garland there, like so:

But during the rest of the year, well… It’s an awkward spot. But it needed something. About six months ago I found these really great wall sconces that worked well there, but they needed something between them. I tried hanging scrolls (cheap ones I’d had hanging there at one point in an attempt to decorate that spot) and I tried an expensive hanging scroll (wound up fitting in the bedroom better) and tried not hanging anything at all, but none of that worked. And then, lo and behold, I found the perfect piece. It’s a piece I’d considered before (from Pier 1)  but it was always out of my price range (again, it’s from Pier 1), but today as I was strolling through their clearance section, I found that piece for about 40% less than the regular price.

And now my awkward wall is properly decorated! ^_^ For the last 8ish months we’ll live in this house. Heh. Ta da!

(This photo isn’t the greatest, but the colors of the sconces and the piece match very well, especially the greenish-blue part. And they all have a hint of floral pattern. It looks much better in person, trust me.)

joanna irl

Small Redecoration

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent the day Friday getting small things to redecorate a couple of spots in my house. There are always a few things that I don’t feel quite work and so I end up tweaking things here and there and it drives my husband a LITTLE crazy (especially when I get upset at the furniture and spend a couple of hours shoving it around the house) so it’s best to do all of my ADJUSTMENTS while he is gone.

Our ideas of how to redecorate are a tiny bit different… Usually the conversation will go like this:

Me: I want to rearrange the furniture/wall art/entire kitchen.
J: Do we have to? (He’d be perfectly happy if nothing changed, ever.)
Me: Yes.
J: (sighs) Okay, let me pull up my graphing program on the computer and add the measurements of the room/wall/kitchen and then everything that is already in the room/on the wall/in the kitchen and then use the program to moves things around so we can better visualize…
Me: (already pulling things off the wall and shoving a couch) Or I could just do this. (shoves more stuff around until it’s in a pile in the middle of the room.)
J: (eye is twitching)

He doesn’t understand that there doesn’t need to be a plan, I just need to move stuff and see how it looks. This makes me happy. He’s learned over the years to just play along and help me move everything around and then when I’m happy again he can be happy again. It’s still less stressful to him if I just do it while he’s out of the house, so lately I’ve been rearranging and just couldn’t get satisfied with a few things.

You may remember, for instance, the wall above the TV? I didn’t like how blank it was, so I added shelves and it looked like this:

43/365 the new wall

That was in February, and I found that I didn’t like it. I liked the kitsch, but it felt too… cluttered. I appreciate good, artistic clutter but I can’t have too much of it or I start to feel hemmed in by it. So I pulled all that stuff down (some of it went into storage, some went to the windowsills above the couch) and now it looks like this:

New wall, take 2

So now the little shelves are covered in photos of J and me (well, and ONE photo of the cats– come on, it’s ME we’re talking about!) and it’s much better!

(I added a cut in case you don’t want to see a LOT more photos, mostly of my bathroom… but there IS a fun surprise at the end. Well, I think it’s a fun surprise.)

Continue reading “Small Redecoration”

joanna irl

And Then There Was Cold

The annoying thing about our house is that it is two stories but only has one thermostat and only one air conditioning pump. This matters when you live in a place like Hawaii and your housing office wants you to keep the air running (they have, until recently, paid for it) to prevent mold in the houses. The problem with leaving the air running is that in order to get the upstairs cool enough to sleep (say, no more than 78 degrees F), the downstairs is usually set for 70-72 degrees F. That’s frustrating. I feel entirely too cold (and the air conditioner works entirely too hard) for the downstairs just so I can go to sleep at night and not sweat all night long.

A few weeks ago I noticed that when I dusted the house, within two or three days I already had a good coating of dust everywhere again. This is also frustrating, especially when you have company. Anyway, I noticed that thick gray dust was coming out of the air vents, so I called maintenance and they scheduled an appointment to come out and clean the system.

The technician came out to the house today at 11am, spent two hours cleaning, and left me with clear (and shiny clean) air vents. Yay!

Since then, I haven’t touched the thermostat… but the house is now freezing cold! Well, J (the Minnesotan) says it’s “comfortable,” but I’m in a sweatshirt inside. I’ve even raised our thermostat to 75 degrees F and am still cold. The best part? The upstairs doesn’t feel more than a degree or two warmer than the downstairs!

Lesson learned: clean out the air vents on the inside with a vacuum! It makes a whole world of difference.

joanna irl

Arguing with the DoD

The housing manager for our community has just come and gone. He took a couple of photos and really was only here about five minutes, but we accomplished something important: I now have documentation that my house is badly insulated.

Anyone that has come to visit me knows that the upstairs (especially the guest room) is always about ten degrees warmer than the rest of the house, and I have to have two or three floor fans going at once just to make it bearable for sleeping.

I wasn’t going to worry too much about this as I only have guests every couple of months (not to mention, it’s not like they hang out in that room anyway, it’s just for sleeping) and because we living in “military” housing, we pay a flat rate for everything.

That’s about to change.

Late last week, I got a letter in the mail from the Department of Defense (you know, the government agency that takes a nearly 20% chunk of our national budget and does… well, something with all of it, including paying my spouse) saying that they were no longer going to simply pay for our “high” energy consumption. Starting in January, for every time we go over the “average” usage of energy in our neighborhood, we will have to pay the difference. If we’re under the average, then we get “credit” (which I’ll get back to in a minute). They’ve been monitoring everyone’s energy usage for two years and have decided to use us as the “pilot” program (aka the guinea pigs) to see how it goes.

Now, I’m all for cutting down on energy consumption, but here are the problems I see:

  1. We already give our entire housing allowance to be able to live in a place at a flat rate, including all utilities (water, electricity, waste disposal, etc). This should already be accounted for somewhere in the budget.
  2. They claim they are going to only compare our usage against other “like units” in our community. This is supposed to account for things like different building standards in each community (which believe me, there are) and for different size homes (though there are several sizes just in my neighborhood). With these inconsistencies, how can they make a fair comparison?
  3. Our homes are not energy efficient in the first place. If they (the Department of Defense) are truly cutting back because they are tired of paying overages on our energy bills (which I am told are around $19 million a year), then why not fix the houses?

And now we come to my real problem. My house is badly insulated. There are gaps around the doors and windows because we don’t have weather stripping. The outside is covered only in a plastic/composite siding instead of wood or stucco. The appliances are the cheap kind and not the energy efficient kind. We have no ceiling fans in a tropical climate. Just having fans upstairs would make a world of difference. They have them in other communities here on the island… but those communities were not built by the DoD. How then can they penalize us for not being energy efficient when they require us to run the air conditioner (because of mold and mildew problems) but have houses that leak that air conditioning out through the doors and windows. And they want us to use less water, but we have high-use appliances. It makes no sense.

Anyway, I’ve got a group of neighbors going with me to the “Town Hall” meeting that’s being hosted by the DoD and we’re going to tell them exactly what we think of all of this. I’m hoping they’ll at least give us some weather stripping and ceiling fans.

It’s not that I’m worried about getting charged for energy usage. I’m usually far below the average in my use anyway. It’s more the principal of it, to be honest.

And this whole thing about getting “credit” for being under the average? We can either have a $5 check (whoop-ti-do) or “bank” it for a month when we “might” go over. DUMB.

Y’know what else I just realized? You can measure the level of my irritation with the number of times I use quotation marks. Heh.

joanna irl

Invasion of the Maggots!

Today, after leaving my next door neighbors’ house, where I’d been invited for brunch, I found another of my neighbors that I’m not terribly familiar with standing at the bottom of my driveway. I say standing, but she was actually in more of a crouch. And holding an aerosol can. And spraying little spots along the driveway edge. Lots of little spots.

Finding this a little, well, weird, I went down to see what she was doing on the pretense of bringing my trash can back to the garage, as the garbage truck had come a couple of hours earlier. We then had our Very First Conversation as Neighbors.

Me: What are you doing?
Woman: I’m spraying them! Haven’t you seen them?
Me: Seen what?
Woman: The maggots.
Me: What?! Where?
Woman: (while looking at me like I’m stupid) They’re all over! They were all over the driveways, and now they’re all over out here!

I looked around and sure enough, the culdesac looked like it was slowly moving because there were thousands (and I’m not exaggerating) of maggots swarming across it. I quickly looked to my feet and didn’t see any there, or on my driveway. We continued our Very First Conversation.

Me: Where did they come from?
Woman: I don’t know, they were in the trash cans. I didn’t see them until we got those recycling bins, though, and I think it’s because you don’t put bags in them!

Yes, her sentence was really that confusing. I think she was reaching a state of maggot-induced-panic. At this point, I went and checked my recycling bin, which was clean, as was my trash can. I pointed both of these facts out to her and told her that I’d call maintenance and see what they could do about it. She bent back to her task, sniping the maggots. One. By. One. Did I mention there were thousands of these things?

Let me point out here I would be a lot more disgusted by this if I hadn’t spent the last couple of years feeding mealworms to various animals. As it is, I’m bothered… but somehow entertained.

A couple of hours later, they were gone. This is the part that bothers me; maggots you can see are merely gross, but maggots that have disappeared have gone somewhere.

I think J and I are going to spend tomorrow putting insecticide around the house, again… After all, the problem with maggots is that you can’t be sure what they’ll morph into…. Elgh.

joanna irl

New House Walk-Through

We did an unofficial walk-through of the house on Friday so that I could take some photos and make notes of anything that needs fixing or that is not in “perfect” condition so I won’t get blamed for it later. We have an official walk-through with an inspector on Monday (tomorrow!), but as we’re also having the alarm company come, taking delivery of our express shipment and our loaner furniture, moving in the cats and getting Jared ready to go back to work (on Tuesday), I thought it might make things a little easier for everyone involved if I already had a list of things ready to go. Of course, there’s nothing major wrong– just a couple of loose drawers in the kitchen, a scratch on the flooring, things like that– but it helps to tell them in advance. Anyway, I’m going to post a bunch of photos on the photo blog (see the top of the page for links), but thought I’d give you a couple of them here with captions so you know what you’re seeing. ^_^

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