Category Archives: Uncategorized

Salvage Catz

 Our 80-something neighbor, Tom, used to live two doors down from us in a house he occupied with his family since he was a kid in the 1940s. A couple of years ago, Tom inherited his sister’s “newer” mid-century house across town. He finally sold the family bungalow, which hadn’t been updated since the 1960s and was sorely in need of some TLC. A guy named Jessie bought the house as a flip.

 

Small brown bungalow needs updating

Tom’s house

Jessie’s attention was diverted to another project, and Tom’s place sat, gutted, sidingless, and sad, for what seemed like forever. Last summer it became a flop house for homeless people and druggies. Over the fall and winter, Jessie’s crew was back at it, thank goodness, and the house was secured and squatter-free at last. Recently we asked the foreman if we could peek inside, and we were thrilled to see what a nice job they’d done. The house retains its early-1900s charm and general floor plan, but with beautiful wood floors, gray and white paint, and a modern but period-appropriate kitchen. Some family will be proud to call it home.

Updated Craftsman bungalow

Jessie’s house

This house not only belonged to Tom (who taught me how to prune my roses), but another family that I recently learned about. A few months ago I read Midnight in Broad Daylight, the biography of Harry Fukuhara, whose family lived in the house before some of them moved back to Hiroshima just before World War II. It’s a fascinating account—I highly recommend it. I was amazed to discover this personal neighborhood connection to the story.

Jessie’s crew made a debris pile in the backyard, which has been slowly disappearing to the dump. And then—Eric spied something interesting: old glass-front cabinet doors with the original brass latches! Eric asked Jessie if we could pilfer their trash, and Jessie was only too happy to let us lighten their dump bill. So, we sauntered down the alley on Sunday to do some pickin’.

A gravel alley behind old houses

I love alleys. You can see all kinds of interesting things.

Along the way we encountered our tux cat, Crosby, out for a stroll with beautiful Dot, our feral friend. Dot, Dash, and Ditto Morse like to hang out in the blackberry thicket across the alley.

Two cats hangin out in the alley

Alley catz Dot and Crosby

A tabby cat looks out from a blackberry thicket

Dot in the blackberry thicket

We salvaged ten windows for their wavy glass—something you pay good money for these days. (We paid about $400 to put “new” old glass in our kitchen cabinets.) Some were glass cabinet doors, and some were the kitchen’s exterior windows. Coincidentally, the kitchen cabinets and trim are pink, ,just as my kitchen once was.

Back of remodeled bungalow

Is there anything interesting in this pile?

Man salvages old windows from debris pile.

Ooh! Windows with wavy glass!

The windows moved into our greenhouse, because, obviously, you never know when you might need a wavy glass window!

I have no idea what we’ll use these windows and doors for … but now a little piece of Tom and Harry’s house belongs to us. Yay!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

Walking in Seattle

I’ll just put it right out there: I’m a social liberal, usually vote for Democrats, and I’ve proudly called myself a feminist since I was a teenager. That’s why my friend Anita and I decided to join the Womxn’s March on Seattle on January 21. I’m not normally politically active (other than voting), but the one thing I’ll march for is women’s rights, which, after all, are human rights. The last time I was part of a protest march was in 1972, when I was a college student against the Vietnam war.

Before heading out on an urban trek, one has to prepare. The first thing I did was order a pussyhat from The Seam Designs, the first Esty shop I stumbled upon. In about a week, this fetching crocheted hat arrived from Brooklyn, NY. I love these hats. They make a serious statement with humor, and they provide a great visual when thousands of people are wearing them.

Woman wearng pink pussyhat

$35 well spent

I didn’t know that my friend Sandi was busy knitting hats locally. She sent me a few, gratis, which I gave to my marching buddies.

Walking 3.6 miles on a January day in Seattle is likely to be wet and chilly. I washed and waterproofed my winter coat, and fished its zip-out liner off the floor of the coat closet, where it had fallen and been used for a cat bed. Yep, washed that, too … and then spent 20 minutes trying to coax the damned zipper into place. I assembled my ensemble, including a fleece jacket and wool socks, and sliced openings in the index finger and thumb of my fuchsia fleece gloves so that I could operate my phone. I sprayed waterproofing sealer on my favorite Keen oxfords. I wondered whether handwarmers might be a good idea.

I was up before dawn Saturday morning after a restless night.  TV news predicted 47 degrees by afternoon. The zippered liner came out of my coat a lot quicker than it went in.

Four of us gathered at Anita’s house, then Eric chauffeured us to Seattle. A couple of miles from the park, sign-toting, pussyhatted marchers filled the sidewalks, and cars clogged the streets. Eric dropped us off with the legions at the bottom of a steep, seemingly endless hill. We followed the crowd up to the park, where we met up with a fifth marcher, Jan.

Four women wearing pink pussyhats before protest march.

Ready to march: Anita, Cathy, Connie, and me.

Judkins Park is a large space, and was completely packed with pink-hatted protesters and bobbing protest signs. Even Rosa Parks was there—one of several huge puppets of famous women. The atmosphere was electric with excitement and anticipation. Everyone was smiling and full of energy. I was encouraged to see nearly as many men as women, and I wished Eric had joined us … but then, we wouldn’t have had a ride. The speechifying was nearly finished (we couldn’t hear it well from where we stood on the edge of the park), and we didn’t have long to wait before people seemed to decide en masse that it was time to depart.

Women's MArch protesters gather at Judkins Park in Seattle.

A small corner of the park.

 

A large puppet of Rosa Parks.

Rosa was at least 10 feet tall.

Off we charged! Or rather, shuffled. The small residential streets that border the park were so crowded that we could barely move. We crept our way to Jackson Street, a main road.

The signs were wonderful—funny, touching, unambiguous, and irreverent. I hadn’t seen some of these slogans and logos for decades. One that summed up my feelings was “50 years later and we’re still protesting this shit!” Topics ranged from women’s rights, human rights, immigrant rights, healthcare, the environment, LGBTQ rights, and general dissatisfaction with the Trump agenda.

Women's March protest sign

Women's March protest sign

Women's March protest sign

Women's March protest sign

Women's March protest sign

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” — Gloria Steinem.

This was supposed to be a silent march like the civil rights marches of the 1960s, but every now and then a cheer would erupt and ripple through the crowd like a wave. People shouted and cheered when onlookers waved from their windows. There was little chanting, but lots of buzz.

Man watches Women's March on Seattle from his balcony.

Not everyone was amused.

We thought we were toward the front of the pack, but as we marched downhill through the International District, the road was filled with marchers as far as the eye could see. And when we got to the bottom of that hill, I looked back, and there were marchers as far as I could see behind us, too. News reported that the entire 3.6-mile route was filled with participants for some time. March organizers had anticipated 50,000 participants. The final total was 175,000! Way to go, Seattle!!

Women's March crowd in Seattle

Looking west down Jackson.

 

Women's March crowd in Seattle

Looking east up Jackson [Elaine Thompson, Associated Press]

These incredible dragons guard the streetscape in Japantown.

In some Seattle neighborhoods, freeway support columns are painted with fanciful designs.

Freeway support columns painted with Asian fish designs, Seattle.

Koi swim up the freeway support columns in the International District.

Then we turned onto 4th Avenue and marched (shuffled) north through downtown.

Women's March on Seattle

Beautiful Seattle

Notice the SUNSHINE? What a glorious day! I marched almost the whole way with my winter coat tied around my waist. I’m sure the warmth contributed to the ebullient mood. But mostly, it felt so good to know I wasn’t the only one who is concerned about losing our hard-won human rights and environmental progress (just two of many issues on peoples’ minds).

By the time we reached Westlake Center in the heart of the city, we were less than a mile from our destination of the Seattle Center (the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, now an arts and civic campus). We were headed for a row of Port-a-Potties when a miracle happened: Our co-marcher, Jan, suggested we simply come up to her place. Turns out she lives in a condo overlooking Westlake, just steps from where we were standing. Within a few minutes we were relaxing in her lovely condo, with a view of 4th Avenue and the marchers below. Jan fed us spaghetti and chocolate. We became weary and complacent and, I regret to admit, we decided to walk to Westlake Station and catch the light rail back toward home rather than shuffle to the end of the route.

Women's March on Seattle ended at the Space Needle.

Had we continued, we’d have ended here. [Elaine Thompson, Associated Press]

The strange thing is, I could walk 3.6 miles at a moderate pace and finish in less than an hour and a half. But we discovered that shuffling at such a slow pace is really tiring! We were out there on the route for nearly three hours, and that didn’t include the hella hill that we climbed to get to the park. (Lest you think we are just a bunch of wimpy old ladies, three of my companions are half-marathoners. I’m more accustomed to walking a golf course.)

View of 4th Ave, marchers in Seattle.

A few of our closest friends … they just. kept. coming!

 

Woman overlooking Woman's March on Seattle

Pooped but happy and full of spaghetti.

This march was such an uplifting, joyous experience. Everyone was happy and positive and inclusive. It really helped to banish the depression and malaise I’ve felt for the past two months, and replace it with a sense of hope for our country. There were no incidents of violence and no arrests. The cops were relaxed and smiling and had little to do but direct traffic. I’m still basking in the glow of knowing there are millions of people out there who share my point of view and my concerns. Last I heard, approximately three million women and men marched worldwide on all seven continents. It’s up to us to raise consciousness once again. Fifty years later, we’re back not to square one, but maybe square two. Something I never expected. Yes, we can.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

 

Is KonMari out to get me?

I see it so often on the Internet and in the media … I think the universe is poking me: Declutter. Eric and I aren’t the worst packrats—we haven’t starred on Hoarders yet, but we have a ton of stuff. Okay, several tons. On the tidy-to-trashy scale, we’re probably at the apex of the bell curve. I have a select few friends who keep semi-spotless houses, but truthfully, I think most of us struggle.

Eric and I have so many fine excuses: We’re two collection-prone, sentimental people living in a small house with 1913-sized closets and a Model T-sized garage. We are burdened by our parents’ possessions, which we haven’t dealt with even though our folks have been gone for years. Work takes up too much of our time … yada yada yada.

Like most people, I want to do better. So it was with a flicker of hope that I picked up this book while we were shopping at Costco. I had to find out what all the fuss was about.

Book cover "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"

I tossed the book on the dining room table with the rest of the clutter. After three weeks, was it my imagination, or did the tabletop looked somewhat cleaner? Curious, I began reading.

Author and Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo is nothing like me. She’s been obsessed with tidying since she was five years old. Five! I was already collecting sentimental junk when I was five. When she was in junior high, she’d rush home from school to spend hours organizing a cabinet. When I was in junior high, I collected more junk. I haven’t changed much, but I know we must get the upper hand if we are ever to move to another house. Yes, Kondo is an obsessive-compulsive tidier and seems a little one-dimensional, but to her credit, she’s created a culture of tidy “Konverts” in Japan, and since her book about the Kon-Mari Method was released here, she’s taking over the U.S.

Kondo dictates some strict tidying rules.

  1. Tidy your entire house at once, not room-by-room.
  2. Do it in category order: ALL of your clothes, then your books, then papers, then miscellany, and finally, mementos.
  3. Handle each item and keep it only if it “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t, thank it for its service, and discard or donate it.
  4. Do all your discarding before you seek storage solutions.
  5. Tidy your house “all in one go,” which can mean in a few hours to over six months, depending on size.

In the end, you’ll be left with a small fraction of your former belongings—only the pieces that you really love. It sounds tempting … but I have a lot of items, and I suspect a lot of them would spark joy.

As I read Kondo’s rules and some pretty out-there claims, such as living in a tidy house may help you lose weight (because nothing’s left in the fridge?). I grew skeptical and even resentful. Discarding? You want me to toss everything that doesn’t bring me joy? I’ll show you discarding! I imagined her book here.

Book in garbage can

I get a little testy when told what to do

Kondo even encourages you to discard her book if you don’t like it. Of course, you know I would never throw out a book! I’d file it in the library and keep it for life. The thought that she would frown if I kept her book even though it didn’t bring me joy made me smile. Bwahaha!

Despite Kondo’s warnings that ignoring her rules will spell certain failure, I decided to dip a toe into the KonMari Kool-Aid and try an itty-bitty test. I’d tidy only one measly drawer. I had to find out if I felt any joy when I held my clothes, and if folding clothes to the right dimension would be, as she promised, addictively fun. So, I present … my drawer of tank tops.

Top drawer of dresser full of tank tops

Maxed out with tanks

My work uniform consists of various colored pants and a tank top or tee, topped off with a sweater. All the tank tops live in the top drawer of one of my mom-and-pop dressers. Three stacks of tops fit in the drawer, which was full to bursting. I couldn’t stuff even one more top into it.

I took everything out of the drawer and laid it on the bed. I picked up each top, smoothed it out and folded it as Kondo advises, into a rectangle that would stand on edge in the drawer, like a filing system. Did my clothes spark joy? Nope, I can’t say that they did. They sparked “like.” They are useful and worn often, and I have some favorites, but they’re just clothes. Meh. I got rid of only two pieces.

Tank top folded into small rectangle

A more compact fold

Was folding fun? Well, it wasn’t …  unfun. Besides, I had the help of a cute guy.

Black and white cat lying on bed next to clothes

Chex makes anything fun

The fun came when I filed all the little rectangles in chromatic order in the drawer. Lo and behold—I had extra room! I can buy four or five more tank tops! The next morning I was happy to see the tops in their rainbow order, and it was a snap to find the one I wanted. No more rummaging! Okay, KonMari passed that test.

Folded tank tops stood on edge

Better!

Time for a bit tougher test: the foyer coat closet, one of three (count ’em—three!) closets in our house. You can bet it was overstuffed. Eric got fed up with it and removed all of his coats to “his” closet in the library. The top shelf groaned under a jumble of golfwear, hats, scarves, and gloves. I didn’t even know what was on the floor, and I was afraid to find out.

Crowded coat closet

This closet needs help!

I piled the mountain of coats on the back of the couch. Duke somehow knew that getting all of the coats from the closet did not mean we were going for a walk.

Boxer lying on couch covered with coats

You’re disturbing my beauty sleep

The floor wasn’t as bad as I’d thought … a shiatsu foot massager (definitely sparks joy), a hand-held vac (no joy, but useful) a couple of area rugs, and a couple of jackets that had fallen from their hangers. And two big, empty cardboard boxes.

As I sorted the coats, only six sparked joy, but they weren’t the ones that I wear most often. Could I really get along with only the six “joy” coats? Heck, no, that would leave me without a raincoat, THE most important type of coat in Western Washington! And I’d have nothing to wear working out in the yard or taking that walk with Duke. Isn’t that what the coats long past joy-sparking are for?

I didn’t time myself and I didn’t hurry, but within a couple of hours, the closet looked like this.

CLoset after tidying

I can see the floor!

So much better! Maybe there is something to the KonMari Method … or am I just cleaning?

I had trouble casting out anything that didn’t spark joy. I came to the conclusion that I’m not willing to pare my clothing down to only what sparks joy, because most of my wardrobe is somewhat this side of joy. That sounds like a pretty great excuse to buy all new clothes, if you ask me! When I look through catalogs, I’m attracted to arty designs, that I’d wear if I owned an art gallery. But in real life, I write technical documents in an office cubicle, and I work with engineering and IT wonks. I already feel like my wardrobe is a little too colorful for my office sometimes. The “joy scale” is difficult for me to apply to clothes. I know Kondo would push me to simply throw everything out, even if it left me with a single pair of underwear and an old flannel shirt.

Kondo pushes my BS button, however, when she advises emptying one’s handbag every night and storing the contents, only to pack it back up in the morning. Thank the bag for its hard work, she says, and let it rest in a spot that makes it happy. I don’t have time to round up my necessities and repack my purse in the morning!! So I hang mine from the treadmill in the dining room, where it can watch TV. (I have long thanked items for their service. I’ve imbued inanimate objects with feelings  all my life. Yup. And I have seven cats.)

Happily watching TV

Happily watching TV

While the thought of handling every item I own and disposing of half of it (or more) is totally daunting, I can’t get KonMari off my mind. I’ve read it twice. I find myself evaluating potential new possessions on that joy scale. (I just ordered three pairs of shoes sure to spark joy!) I’ve been encouraging Eric to read the book because I can’t and won’t sort his belongings. He’ll have to be on board. Wait—I’m talking like I’m going to do this! What’s happening here?? Has the KonMari Method brainwashed me?

Eric is currently cleaning and organizing his basement shop, a big and desperately needed project that is consuming many hours. Whenever he heads downstairs I remind him to keep only what sparks joy.  So far, he hasn’t hauled me to the dump, so I guess I’ll be back to blog another day.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

Attack of the Drosophila

We are under siege. Because of our abnormally hot and dry summer, western Washington State is suffering from a fierce assault from fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). These common little pests are always annoying, but this year they are making headlines and appearing on TV news. We’ve been held hostage for weeks now, and despite our best guerrilla warfare tactics, I fear we’re losing the battle.

Side view of fruit fly

Drosophila melanogaster [Liew Weng Keong]

The flies are mounting their offensive in the kitchen, bathroom, and living room. Thank heavens they have not ventured into the bedroom! I would have to move out.

It’s not happening just to us, or course … everyone’s battling the Drosophila invasion. Inside, outside. At home, at work. Some buildings at my workplace have even required fumigation.

They swarm around me when I sit in my favorite chair in the living room. They’re attracted to the light of table lamp. I’m attracted to the light, too, dammit, and I’m tired of competing with them (and sharing my wine).

When I walk into the bathroom, Eric hears clap-clap-thump-thump as I try to smash as many flies as I can. My record is five. For some reason, we’ve found it’s easier to smack the little devils with wet hands.

Our first line of defense is the classic fruit fly trap: a rotting banana slice in a jar, topped by an inverted paper cone taped securely around the jar’s lip. The flies crawl in, but don’t know how to crawl back out. The traps are very effective, but man, we have a lot of flies … and more hatching all the time. Needless to say, we’ve removed our bananas and we take out the garbage more often.  Occasionally I pour scalding water down our drains.

Fruit fly traps have become part of our décor. I pretend this one in the bathroom is a fragrance diffuser.

A fruit fly trap on the bathroom windowsill

A fruit fly trap in the bathroom

I’m sure dinner guests would hardly notice the additional centerpiece on the dining room table.

Fruit fly trap on dining room table

A nice addition to the table

On the table next to my chair is my favorite photo of Mom  … and a fruit fly trap.

Fruit fly trap on living room lamp table

Sorry about the Drosophila, Mom

And of course, I enjoy making espresso next to the trap in the kitchen.

Fruit fly trap on kitchen counter next to espresso machine

Yes, we have no bananas

I decided to read up and learn about the enemy. In the process, I’ve actually become, well, fond of them is too strong a phrase. Of course I still kill them at every opportunity, but I do so with more respect and empathy. I even think they’re kind of cute when they see the shadow of my hand and cock their wings vertical in alarm. Before I squash them.

I assumed that these tiny flies must have a lifespan of just a few days. Wrong! They can live for weeks, some say for months under optimal conditions. And they live for sex!

WARNING: This post contains graphic subject matter that might be unsuitable for some viewers.

It takes a fruit fly larva only eight days to turn into an adult, and once mature, it thinks of little other than sex … and maybe bananas and red wine. The adolescent males will come on to anyone (“Hey, you look like Stevie Nicks!”), even flies of another species, even other males, until they learn that it’s only the female Drosophila who will fall for their ridiculous come-on lines. If she so much as smiles at him, he serenades the girl-fly by playing a song on his wings. Isn’t that cute? More sexually experienced and suave guy-flies spend less time courting—no surprise—and cut to the chase quicker. (“Hey babe, we both know why we’re here. Wanna get it on?”) And they like to prolong sex for as long as possible—up to 20 minutes. Think about that: When you’re lifespan is a scant month, that’s a long time! Meanwhile, the tarty little girl-fly is already winking her beady red eye at a cute Drosophila across the room (“You about done? I gotta go.”).

Two fruit flies mating

Mating fruit flies [TheAlphaWolf]

When the girl-fly finally drags herself home at 6:00 a.m., she takes a couple of ibuprofen and a nap, swears off of guys for the next ten days, and gets busy laying eggs, five at a time. Up to 400 of them.

We have thrown out 11 traps during this war, each containing perhaps 50 Drosophila. That’s 550 flies. If half of those are females, then we potentially have 900,000 eggs gestating around the house somewhere. Eww … How will we ever get rid of them? I hope most of the sex has happened inside the traps! Here’s some proof—see the lovely larva?

Fruit fly trap with larva

Time to throw this trap away

I don’t want to hasten winter weather, but we need a good frost to kill these critters outside. But what’s to kill them inside? Will they keep hatching and mating all winter? Gawd …

I’m glad to report that in the past two days I think I’ve seen a slight reduction in numbers. Not a single Drosophila dove into my wine last night, although a few did a courtesy fly-over. Maybe we are winning the war after all. It sure will be nice when we can have bananas again.

Fruit fly top view

Bye-bye, fruit fly [Andre Karwath]

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it