Monday, May 26, 2008

Decoration Day

Memorial Day, but my mother and family called it Decoration Day.

We always knew we would see my uncle Buto (Bruno), mother's brother, as this time of year he would travel back home from Washington, DC to decorate the graves, not just for those who had served in the military and died, but those of family members. It was a time to honor those who had impacted our lives, loved ones, by visiting the cemetery and placing flowers and wreathes upon their graves.

I always looked forward to his visit and especially if my two other uncles, Whitey (Michael) and Willie (William), chose to come home. All of them returning at the same time was not a frequent occurrence, but when any of them did arrive, my grandmother would cook one of their favorite Lithuanian meals.

She would put on her best homemade dress and wide-brimmed hat, and someone would drive her to the grounds so she could visit one of her daughters who had been taken at a much too early age. Regardless of which of the families came, it was an exceptionally joyous time as we would gather in the basement kitchen; Uncle Tony, who lived at home, played the harmonica; everyone sang the Lithuanian songs, and while Uncle Bruno was especially gifted as a wonderful Tenor, all voices were to be heard.

Although the distance is too great to travel to the place of rest for uncles Bruno, Whitey, and Tony, my grandmother Tekla and especially my mother Roze, I honor each of them as a wonderful influence on my life and thank Uncle Bruno for his military service to our country.

The Day's Color

The vibrancy is everywhere: several of the Rhododendrons have faded but others are in full bloom as are the Siberian and Bearded Iris.The purple Allium. . .

anthriscus, coral bells, weigela. . . golden barberry and Viburnum 'mariesii' (with its lovely white doublefile blossom which lies atop the horizontally prone branching). . .

clematis, the old-fashioned Rosa Rugosa, and the banana plant (beginning its emergence from beneath the Geranium 'Johnson's Blue),

... each stunningly complementing the other and offering such abundance of joy and color, striking golden poses as with this Laburnum.

The Dogwood is about to revel with its months of continual display. . . but that for another day as it is time for breakfast.

Make your day a blossoming one, and honor those who are so special in your life.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kitchen Project

Our kitchen (and half bath) redo is finally done. . . well, almost. We have a few tiny things remaining. Living out of boxes juxtaposed about the dining and living room floors and having our laundry room as an efficiency kitchen, is not our idea of a perfect life style, but it was workable and the project has finally come close to conclusion.

One of my philosophies is never celebrate until something is actually complete. . . until the verdict is in. For as soon as I get that sense of feel good, it is generally a warning sign, like a nudge that needs my attention. I usually adhere, but there was so much excitement in seeing this transformation, I couldn't hep ma sef thinking about how great things were going and the final result. Having written "so far, so good as all seems to be falling in place", . . . should have been a warning.

Having a few "extra" things done allowed us an opportunity to then have to "fix" a few other things, i.e. replacing the particle board pantry shelves and small support posts with new free standing ones and very simple corbels, proved to cause some neck tension. A board cut too long and forced against the dry wall made opening the pocket door next to impossible and with an attempt to open, inflicted a deep nail wound in the flesh of the wood, so now we could have the painters repair that, the carpenter suggested. Wonder who is paying the painters?

Since the door leading into the garage required downsizing due to the height of the new flooring, the security folks had to be called as the magnetic trigger no longer aligned. Sure, that was free. . . not.

As the tile was being unloaded and stacked, I suggested that it looked awfully dark (brown), but was assured it would lighten as it dried. Okay. . . I'll trust their judgment. Well, it was and it didn't. So our fabricator called Emser Tile and told them of our dissatisfaction, to which they replied, "They will have to pay a 25% restocking fee if it is returned". My husband and I decided to visit Emser, and the representative tried to convince us that it was the "ivory" classic premium travertine, that they sometimes change the names, and that God was responsible for the color we received. Having removed the label from the crate and researched their suppliers Rustico as being a different color, need we say anything more? We were charged nothing for what was their error and effort to force a product on us, and a several day delay would occur as the correct tile would be purchased at Intrepid in Portland, Oregon, where we initially made the selection of all the products. Ah, and of course we had to pay a little more for it, since Intrepid was a little higher in price.

Nailing the backer board to the floor and with astounding accuracy, one of the tile folks hit a capped-off copper water pipe dead center causing a large water leak under the house. It took hours for my husband and the plumber to pinpoint the leak; the carpenter was called to cut an opening in the floor; the copper was repaired as was the floor board; and the tile work proceeded. This added expense was clearly not in our budget, but we took it in stride.

Once the painters had gone and the oil-based painted pantry shelves were dry - about a two-week wait for those to cure - I could begin emptying the boxes and again find food items without playing the game of see if I can find the jar of olives in less than two minutes this time. With the pantry restocked, I could now climb the ladder to the large shelf which spans one of the kitchen walls and return those display items of pottery and family collectibles to their prior places.

Okay, I said a few bad words (#!!@#*#&!!!!). There was not an ounce of paint on the upper side of the shelf, and once the painter returned, it would be another two weeks waiting for that to dry. All I could think of was the conversation with one of the painters. He indicated that I could go ahead and put things back on the shelf if they didn't have to paint it, to which I responded, "No, we want it painted. It should match the new baseboards, the shelving in the pantry, and besides, it was part of the bid." Several other areas of missed paint application or paint on new light fixtures. . . no need to discuss.

When our electricity goes out in the winter - and that usually happens at least once a year - and since our cooktop is an electric Jenn-Aire, we added a gas cooktop so we could always prepare meals. It only took 3 weeks to get a county permit!

Overall, I think we did a pretty good job as our own general contractor, scheduling the fabricator, the plumber, electrician, painters. . . and verifying with each as to the correct time and position in the schedule so as not to interfere with whatever work was in progress.

Granted, when things go wrong, it takes away some of the joy of getting it done, but you have to stay focused on the intended result, and no matter that you hire those you believe to be the best. What I said to one of the young men who was working here, the difference between someone who is "good" at what they do and one who is the "best", is the attention to detail. I continue to be astounded at the lack of it. Do I expect too much? I don't think so, especially when you have hired and pay for the so-called best in the business.

Putting all of that aside, we now chuckle at some of the stories; you now have the benefit of our experience; and we have a beautiful kitchen and are looking forward to years of enjoyment. Besides that, we're cooking with gas!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bend, OR

We returned yesterday afternoon from a two-day meeting in Bend, OR. If you have never been there, we recommend it as being well worth your time.

Situated geographically about in the center of the state, we find it to be a charmingly crisp and clean town along the Deschutes River, about 3623 feet in elevation, and an area known for camping, hiking, fishing, golf, rock climbing, and of course skiing at Mt. Bachelor. High desert, it is considered, with sunny days and cool nights.

The quaint downtown area offers wonderful restaurants, and one of our favorites is The Cork for fine and intimate evening dining while lunch at Toomies for Thai food is very good and reasonably priced. Scanlons, just outside of Bend, also did not disappoint.

As you leave the city, the snow-capped mountains of Broken Top (9173ft), Three Sisters (all around 10,000 ft) - left photo -, and Mt. Jefferson (10,497 ft) stand mystifyingly around this plateau of farmland and sagebrush.

Our early morning return home was as we had come, through the enchanting little western-style town of Sisters (with a quick stop at the local bakery for a scone). A gradual descent past Black Butte, through forests of Ponderosa Pine, cedar and Douglas firs, led us toward the McKenzie Pass (5325 ft) and the jagged snow-topped lava which lay as ancient molten beds around us and within the Willamette National Forest. Neither Mt. Washington (7790 ft) nor Three Fingered Jack (7841 ft) were visible amidst the snuggling cloud cover this day, and the partially ice-covered lake cued us of the 36 degree temperature.

Approximately thirty minutes from Sisters we past the headwaters of the mighty McKenzie River, Clear Lake, a pristine area of crystal clear and serene waters which reveal the petrified trees standing upright from its floor. Undaunted, it lays quietly, not stirring except for a slight breeze or movement from the motion of an oar. It emits a steady flow, a gradual gesture, a pace which increases with each stride, widening its area of reach like a long distance runner, strengthening, commencing power, racing south of the highway, rounding, lowering its right shoulder into the turn, relaxing momentarily, only to quickly dart beneath the bridge below us, adjusting, gathering its force to finally propel itself over the crashing, thundering 70 foot cliff of Sahalie Falls. What an unbelievable sight to experience!

The River raced with us throughout most of the remaining trip, paralleling the roadway, darting in and from our sight, and occasionally traversed playfully. . . but whose spirit is always not to be taken for granted. It followed us back into the Valley as the white blossoms of the wild dogwoods spotted throughout the wilderness brightened our overcast and occasional rainy sorta day. Mid 50's, a good trip, and it's always great to be back home.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Heat Is On

Each year we generally have a few predictable "unusual" weather patterns occur here in the Pacific northwest: a snow in April and then a surge of heat sometime in May, and this year is no exception as the last several days have been horrific. Yesterday we experienced an unusual hot 100 degrees which followed a day of 95!

We observed a pathetic sight of what was to be a beautiful display of the Chinese peony as was enjoyed on May 2 of last year. I cannot show yesterday's destruction, but will only report that the beautifully formed bud preparing itself for a dinner plate sized display, opened and wilted in a matter of hours. . . exhausted, defeated, with no air left to breathe. Thus, this beauty remains in our thoughts:

Today and tomorrow offer reprieve as we should see a reduction in temperature by 20 degrees, followed by a return to some normalcy.

Enjoy the rest of your day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

It was Anna Jarvis from Grafton, WV who was responsible for the first Mother's Day, a day to celebrate and honor our mothers.

To all the women in my life, and especially to the one person who is no longer here physically, but whose spirit forever shines within me, my mother. . . Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Vibrance of Spring

Our Spring has definitely arrived. . . the color says so. I rejoice at the vibrancy surrounding us.

We had several days of 70 degree weather followed by a few cloudy-mid 60's days, an opportunity for the newly planted vegetables to catch their breathe.

. . . and now back to my work with the soon-to-be-end of the kitchen remodel.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Weather is Changing

A sharp contrast from just a week ago, today should bring us a beautiful 70 degrees. Spring is here and yesterday found us in the garden and planting the last of our summer vegetables.

As we near completion of our kitchen renovation (only a small amount of painting remains), much of yesterday was spent putting items back into the cabinets and cleaning counter tops. Opening the doors and windows so as to offer ventilation from the painting proved to be a good/bad scenario. . . good in that we enjoyed the soft cool breeze gently moving about the kitchen, but bad in that I gave no thought to the yellow grit of the pervasive pollens which rode in on the back of our enjoyment.

I got to clean the surfaces all over again. So, with each joy may come disappointment?