Thursday, November 29, 2007

Random trivial updates

The new Dysons have arrived and OMG do they rock. One small indoor/outdoor carpet that sits on the path between the Dog Hallway and the back door was always impossible to clean. About 15 seconds with the Animal DC17 and that sucker was jet black clean and the canister was filled with inches of dirt and pug hair. Very disgusting but wonderful now to think that we have something that actually really seriously sucks around here but in a GOOD way.

No floor estimates yet - one guy came out but no estimate yet, the other guy was going to call Thanksgiving week to set up a time to come out but haven't heard from him. I'll blame it on the holidays and cut them a break, but I also know that it's just pretty consistent with the fact that around here, most contractors just freakin' suck about getting back to you.

Not our HVAC guy, though, as I've said before. He rocks. And his Young Squire helper is a fresh-faced example that some kids (and yes, very-early 20's qualifies you as "Kid" to me now) actually have strong work ethics and professional behavior and all that.

One recommendation, though: If you decide that behind an attic knee-wall HVAC service panel is a great place to hide ::ahem:: things that you don't want your grandchildren to find, it's always a good idea to remove them from behind said service panel before the HVAC guys arrive to fine-tune your system. If I had a blushing-deep-purple emoticon to use right now, I would.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hitting the CSA Jackpot

I finally found a local CSA that
  1. has shares small enough for the two of us,
  2. delivers in our area instead of requiring us to drive 15+ miles to pick it up,
  3. is very reasonably priced,
  4. offers a nice variety, with a good balance between stuff people use more often and things that are new/unusual to many folks,
  5. never overloads their CSA baskets with too much of any one thing like zucchini when it's in "can't even give it away" season,
  6. allows us to order additional produce, free-range organic eggs, and naturally-raised poultry and meats, to be delivered with our CSA basket,
  7. is run by Very Nice People (one of the other local CSAs is run by someone who comes across as a compulsive, aggressive control freak), and
  8. doesn't require work (one of the local CSAs requires each member to work a certain significant number of hours, but the costs are still as much or more than the other CSAs).
This makes me very happy.

In case you have no clue what I'm talking about, CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." Generally, CSAs are small local farms that apply natural and/or organic farming practices, though not all are "certified organic." While some CSA's simply allow members to order and buy what they want each week, and many CSA's are the farmers at your local farm markets, many offer a pre-paid discounted weekly farmer's-choice basket which is a sample of what was harvested that week. I like the challenge (or at least I like the idea of the challenge) of getting something new and having to figure out how to use it.

Now I'll need to decide what, if anything, to put into my own garden.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I miss you, Max.

Friday evening, just after 6, I said my last good-bye to Max, who was without question the most special dog I ever had. He was an odd and interesting mix of pitbull and whippet (and who knows what else) - looking like a scared, skinny pitbull. I adoped him in the spring of '93, when he was probably 2-3 years old. A small Philadelphia rescue group had picked him up off the street and gave his "owner" the choice of being reported for the the fight injuries indicative of being "pit bait" and the chain collar that had started to grow into the skin of his neck, or to sign him over to them. They signed. The rescue group had the collar surgically removed and began the process of trying to find a loving home for a fearful pit-mix dog that was not well socialized among people or animals.

A friend who was involved in that rescue group knew that I was looking for a companion for my other dog, but I never in a moment imagined that this agressive abused dog that she described would be a good match for Buster, but to finally appease her I brought Buster over. Despite the fact that Buster tended to just annoy other dogs (and many people) to death, and that Max tended to be higly agressive with other dogs, it was total love at first sight between those two boys, so he came home with me. And boy, what a lovefest it was for the two of them - I used to joke that with their big grinning faces as they did all the :::ahem::: "getting to know you" things that boy dogs tend to do, I kept expecting to find the living room where they stayed littered with cigarette butts and little foil packets. But they did definitely bond, and it wasn't long before it was clear that Max was a very special dog.

It took a long time to get him properly socialized, but within a couple of years he was the sweetest gentlest boy you could imagine. His two favorite things, beyond snuggling up to whoever would have him, were running (and the whippet in him made him run faster than any dog I'd ever known) and rolling in dead things in the park. Ah, well, he WAS a dog.

He was a total sun-god and would bask in the warm sun, even on the hottest days, and shiver like a blizzard was passing through if it dropped below 60 -- that is, of course, unless I had him out for a run on the beach where it could be 25 degrees and he'd still jump around in the water as if it were mid-summer.

I have so many Max stories, and it breaks my heart that there won't be any more, but as the weather started to get colder around here it became clear that his body wasn't at all up to another winter, that his quality of life was gone, and it was time to say good-bye.

Here's Max several years ago, basking in the sun, showing off his characteristic big happy-dog grin.

I miss you, Max.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dust mites and leaf mold and corn, OH MY!

My body has decided to do me the gracious honor of reintroducing me to one of the delightful wonders of my youth: Asthma. Except of course with the decorum of a matured lady, I no longer indulge in the loud wheezy rattling coughing hacking gasps for air that peppered my youth after I played in the forbidden hay lofts and corn fields and fall's leaf piles. This sudden resurgance of asthma in my middle years takes an outwardly more subtle form, card-on-bike-tire rattle replaced by long but ladylike yawns and short stops between breathy phrases as I struggle to talk, trying to force air into tightened passageways. I'm unsettled by the occasional sense of gradual suffocation, but I keep my head together enough to not freak the hell out on anyone, especially myself.

Asthma just sucks. It's awful. I got some work done on the house this weekend but there was no energy in it, only this sense that I have to slog through what needs to be done - laundry, mopping, sealing the bottom of the baseboards in the doggie hallway, going through another box or two in the attic. Nothing that will give me any real satisfaction. Nothing that takes me less than fifteen minutes when it should take me five. Nothing that will remotely push my body into feeling like it worked.

I've been having some restrictive breathing for a few weeks, or maybe even a few months (I tend to ignore such things), but honestly I think it was the allergy tests I got two weeks ago that sent me over the edge into this Asthma Hell a few days later, deep into breathing treatments and prednisone shots and "gee, your oxygen is only 93, if it doesn't go up I'm sending you to the ER" and two types of inhalers and one nose spray and two types of pills forever plus a week of prednisone to make me freakin' nuts and some antibiotics to take care of that fever, without bothering to look too hard for what the fever might be from. And still, there are bands on my chest, allowing me to breath but not with the full use of my lungs.

I can't transplant dozens of perennials, trim privet monster trees, get the attic insulated or the garage organized, put the gutters on the garage, or even figure out what to do with my outside potted herbs - the prednisone having stripped me of my logical stamina as thoroughly as the asthma removed my physical stamina, and so I just can't think of my options, and they may freeze before I can bring myself to evaluate the best possible solution. I can't put up the shelves in the linen closet, think through what type of bar we should use to hang up my mother's quilt, clean out the pantry, make pies, or even just clean my desk.

Ironically, we've dramatically lowerd our exposure to allergens since moving here: No carpet, just small rugs. A new central heat/air system wtih two 5-6" thick super-filters and a built-in humidifier. A house that's not subject to the endless mold and mildew that plagued our former concrete block beach cottage. Dogs (which, by the way, rank right up with cockroaches as The Two Things Leslie Wasn't Allergic To) are not allowed in most of the house, cats banned, no smoking inside. Sure we could dust and vacuum a bit more often, and we need to get those dust mite covers for the bedding. But we're doing ok.

I just want it to be over. I want to be working on my house, rearranging my garden, riding my bike to school on these cool fall mornings, frantically building my 4x4 boxes for next spring's garden, sitting thickly bundled on the porch with my morning tea as I engorge myself on long slow deep hits of the morning's moist cool clear air. I want to be well.

A cold, the flu - those I could deal with because there is an end to it. But asthma sucks. I have no guarantee when, or if, things will get better.

And I'm getting tested for food allergies Thursday. Please don't let life just dive straight down into Suck, full speed, by making me allergic to some of my most loved foods, like nuts and cheeses.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Exploring new ways to just suck it up

I couldn't resist that title. I really do feel like I have to just suck it up on a lot of things in my life, which isn't always a pleasant thing. And in the past few weeks I've been having a very rough time sucking it up - sucking up (in) air in particular, because of some serious asthma that's kicking my ass.

However, this time I'm actually very excited about two new ways to really suck it up:

The Dyson DC17 Absolute Animal

And the Dyson DC16 Root 6.

And both for around half the regular retail cost through a Dyson employee's "Friends and Family" discount. I don't think I could have ever justified the cost if I were paying full retail (and these suckers just never go on sale), but this will be a sweet early holiday gift to ourselves. With all my focus on not wanting to be wasteful, I'm feeling a wee bit guilty that our current vacuum cleaner is less than 4 years old and works perfectly, but despite it having a "hepa" filter, it stinks. It works fine, but there's this smell that just never goes away with most bag vaccuums even if you change the filter and clean that sucker out as often and as well as you can. I have received promises all around from current Dyson owners that the Dyson's don't stink.

I just love new toys for the house. Oh, and the handheld? I... um... kinda sorta forgot to double-check with V about ordering that before I added it to the order form. Oops.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my HVAC guys?

The chill of late fall finally upon us, my HVAC installer came out to check the balance of the systems, install new super-filters, and hook up the humidifier (though he can't really test until it gets dry enough to create a need). All as part of our initial installation costs.

He decided that the 2nd/3rd floor heat was not balanced as nicely as he'd like, so he did yet another load evaluation (couldn't find his original), then spent a full day here with his cutie-pie assistant, getting me all set up.

They even build an insulated cover for my 2nd floor emergency exit door which totally not installed correctly, so that we could just bash right through the cover and door in case of an emergency and lose a lot less heat in the mean time.

He says that we need to insulate the unfinished attic room where the unit is installed, and if he says we need to do it, we'll do it. Not this weekend - too much stress going on. But maybe next. We'll see.

We'll need them to come out and balance the first floor a bit as well, since the office is always a good 6 degrees warmer than the rest of the house. Then again, that's where the dogs sleep, so maybe it would be ok for them to be at 66 while the rest of the downstairs is at 60.

Speaking of temps, HVAC guy is amazed that we actually LIKE the thermostat set to 66 while we're here. He can't think of a house he's serviced where 72 wasn't considered the lowest comfort setting.

He also doesn't get why I want the thermostat programmed so that unless it's less than 55 in the house, the electric supplement heat does not come on. We always have the option of turning it back on if it gets wicked cold, but we really don't mind that it may take 2 hours to get up to temperature without using the expensive electric supplement. I mean, the thermostat is actually designed to ramp up the temps slowly between automatic setting, so if we say that we want it to be 66 at 5pm, it starts bringing the heat up at 3:30 so that it can do so more efficiently

We're just into sweaters and down comforters around here.

In other news, we'll hopefully have at least two estimates for getting a new dining room floor put down within the next two weeks. It would be totally luverly to get it put in place by mid-December, but that still might not be realistic.

And in even other news, very little has been done here around Casa de Jorge, a combination of V and I both being super-stressed for a variety of reasons, and my lifelong asthma deciding that it was tired of making only an occasional quick walk-on bit-part appearance in my life, and so now it's kicking my ass with a vengeance. Nothing like suddenly finding yourself feeling as if you were being suffocated to get you into the work-on-the-house mood. Ugh.