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June 25, 2008

Ania's mom, Wanda has single-handedly transformed the hillside in our backyard from an eyesore of a bleak and barren slope to a lush, terraced garden full of flowers and tomatoes. The colorful flowers have made spring and summer at our home even more pleasant and beautiful!

Here's a look at the yard as it was in April 2007 and below, after all her hard work, how it looks now in June 2008:

BEFORE AND AFTER: Backyard hill

After weeks of care and attention, those tomatoes have finally started to ripen, and the first crop is ready!

Wanda's tomatoes

It's too bad I so strongly dislike tomatoes — I'm sure they'll be juicy and delicious — but I will at least try them!

March 25, 2007

Growing up, our neighbor Don, who lived across the street, made wine every year. It was a very social event; he'd have friends come over and help, and it invariably drew people out to see what was going on and join in the hangout that developed around the event.

When we moved into our current house, my next door neighbor, Stu came over with his wife and daughter to welcome us. They brought a loaf of Barbara's home made chocolate zucchini bread and a bottle of his home made IPA, both of which were delicious!

Stu invited me to join him and one of our other neighbors, Kevin, to make beer last year, but I didn't make it for whatever reason. This year when he told me about it, I made a point not to miss it. I couldn't join them for the whole day, but I wandered over after lunch, and we had a great time hanging out, drinking, and making beer. I learned a lot, got to know my neighbors some more, and enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon. It's neat to think of being part of a neighborhood tradition similar to the one I grew up with, 25 years ago, but not three miles away.

Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera, but I grabbed this shot of Kevin with my phone's camera: Kevin with beer

Thanks, Stu & Kevin, for inviting me to help. See you soon for bottling!

December 27, 2006

Big bad wolf

Carter called me bright and early this morning to tell me that two sections of Mom & Dad's fence blew down in the fierce winds we've been having. I wasn't actually too surprised — the wind was blowing hard! We agreed to get together and see what we could do to put it back together.

One section was completely blown apart, with boards separated and spread around. I'd have liked to witness that happen — it must have been pretty dramatic! The other section wasn't as bad, and we stabilized it in about half an hour. Next, we started to evaluate the task in front of us. We quickly realized a trip to the hardware store was in order. We knew we needed some good, strong nails, but decided to also pick up a new 2x4 for the top (the old one was rotted), some smaller boards to serve as guides for the fence boards, and some new fence boards as well. Getting all that lumber plus Carter home in my S2000 was tough, but it was actually a good vehicle to use, since we could put the top down to accomodate the long pieces.

We soon saw this was a bit more of an undertaking than we initially expected; we were closer to rebuilding the section than repairing it, though we didn't do the base or posts. Neither of us has ever built a fence before, so we had to think it out, discuss a lot of ideas and approaches, and do some "modeling" — better to "measure twice, cut once"! We worked well together, which I would have expected. I'm sure our recent co-op video gaming sessions contributed to that; there's nothing like hours of monster-killing and anti-terrorist tactical missions to develop teamwork! (See, Jene & Ania, those Xbox 360s have lots of benefits!) Fortunately, we have similar ideas about quality of workmanship and a mutual distaste for skimping & cutting corners, which meant we were on the same page in those areas. Plus, Carter's just easy to get along with; I think anyone who knows him will agree with that.

I brought over a few tools — some from my list of cool tools — and some others I didn't bother to write up, but might have to add to the list. I was shocked at the variety of tools we used; (I finally got to put my demolition tool to good use!) we ended up using almost everything I brought over! It took us a lot longer than professionals would have taken, but we got the job done, and done well — we even braced the fence against an adjacent tree; it's not likely to fall down again anytime soon! (Knock on wood!) It wasn't how either of us expected to spend the day, but it wasn't altogether unpleasant; we got to do some problem-solving, engineering, and good old-fashioned hard work. In the end, we were both pretty proud of our handiwork!

PHOTO SUMMARY: Fence building

Thanks for the help, Carter; it was a pleasure working with you!

July 05, 2006

Exactly one year ago today, (almost to the hour, as I'm writing this) we got the news that our offer was accepted on what's now our home.  It's shocking how fast the year went by!  Ania and I can still vividly remember being excited, tense, worried, and distracted on the 4th last year (we made our offer on the 3rd), not really paying attention to the fireworks or much else, just biting our nails, wondering if we'd get the house.

As soon as we walked in for the first time, we both had the immediate, distinct feeling that this place  felt like home; not a home, but home.  A year later, it's truly become just that.  We're slowly but surely making progress updating it (and enjoying the process much more than I expected!), but it was in good condition -- if not our style -- when we bought it.

Picture: Skyview House

We couldn't be happier with our decision!  The house is great, the yard is very pleasant, we have friendly neighbors, we're close to my parents, close to the places we like to hang out, and we're a comfortable distance from work.  We were looking for a place where we could really settle down, and not have to worry about room for growth, or wish we were somewhere else.  In Skyview, we've found that place, and we look forward to enjoying it for many more years to come.

April 16, 2006

We had Easter at our house this year, and decided to make it a lunch.  We grilled tri-tip (Morton's, from Costco, which we really like) and asparagus, and Mom brought a ham, to keep with tradition. 
This was our first time having our extended family over to our new house, and it was great!  I'm glad to finally have room to comfortably host larger gatherings. 

It had been rainy and cold until just before everyone arrived, but we had a few hours of sunshine and just enough warmth that we could all enjoy the sun on the patio as I was cooking.  We were really lucky with the weather; about 20 minutes after everyone left, it started raining.  It seemed like everyone had a good time, and we enjoyed the afternoon!


December 24, 2005

We celebrated our first Christmas Eve Dinner at Skyview with my parents and Dave, as has become our tradition, and Ania made the delicious traditional Polish Christmast Eve dinner we've all started to look forward to at this time every year.
PHOTO SUMMARY: Christmas Eve Dinner 2005


October 16, 2005

Ania and I have been  having a great time and doing a lot lately, but we haven't had much time just to truly relax nor to enjoy our new home.  This morning, we had nothing on the agenda.  We got up, made coffee, and went for a little stroll on the walking path behind our house.  There's something indescribable about the golden glow cast by the Autumn sunlight, and that's part of what makes the season my favorite...

We got back and enjoyed a nice breakfast of cinnamon toast, raspberries, and fontina cheese on our patio.  I called and chatted with Jene (my sister) while Ania started work on her Autumn wreath, a project she was happy to finally have time for (it turned out great!).

Wild Animal Photo Shoot

At one point, Ania spotted a squirrel in our apple tree  and went to take some pictures and investigate.  The squirrel seemed to have "bitten off more than she could chew", trying to figure out what to do with an apple whose mass was pretty close to her own.  She sat very still pondering the problem.  This frustrated Ania, who moved closer and closer, determined to get a picture of the squirrel in a different pose.

Squirrel throwing apple

With no warning, the squirrel threw the apple at Ania and shot out of sight!  Okay, it's more likely she released the apple and the way it fell through the branches caused it to roll toward Ania, but we have it on video (that's a  screen capture above) and I have to say, it sure did look like she threw the apple!


We exuded happiness as we indulged in the lovely Fall morning amongst the chirping birds and the drone of the occasional propeller plane (a favorite sound that takes me back to sitting on the front lawn with my dad after early-morning yardwork).   "You should blog this," she said, reading my mind.

Skyview House

Perhaps it's that we're finally getting a chance to settle in a little, but I think maybe it's that memory of the propeller planes -- more than two decades ago, but not three miles away -- that helps me truly realize how good it is to be back home, in Pleasant Hill.

July 21, 2005

Ania and I have really enjoyed living at 11 Bonny Doone in Hercules, CA, but we always knew it wasn't the place where we'd settle down.  It's a great house, but it's 3br 2.5 bath, and we wanted to find a place with 5 bedrooms, to more comfortably accomodate our future children and Ania's family visiting from Poland for extended periods.

We were fortunate to recently find a house in Pleasant Hill (my home town) that will be perfect for us for the long-term, so it's time for us to say goodbye to our current home, which is now listed for sale! (MLS ID#: 40095064)

Here's a copy of the for sale flyer (click on the images for larger size).  Feel free to pass it on if you know anyone who might be interested.  Open house is Sat & Sun, July 23-24, from 1-4 PM.  For more information, our agents are Alison Salvi (925-984-3195) and Helen Ivanov (925-648-5323).

April 22, 2005

Here's a "photo summary" of some of the updates  and changes we've recently made to our home; new lamps, resurfaced kitchen tile, new appliances, & nicer decor for our guest room.
PHOTO SUMMARY: Bonny Doone updates
I want to try to generate photo summaries on a regular basis, since they're a good, fast way to look at highlights of a given time or activity.

If you have tile on your kitchen counters or in your bathroom, and it doesn't look as nice as you'd like, you may want to consider Miracle Method tile resurfacing.  After having it done, I think the name is totally appropriate, but the pictures speak for themselves!


Kitchen tile counter - BEFORE
Kitchen faucet - BEFOREThe tile and grout on our kitchen counters hadn't been maintained well previous owners, and by the time we bought the house, the counters were extremely tough to keep clean.  The thin grout lines made cleaning especially difficult; only bleach & scrubbing helped, but even then, the counters didn't look very good.

I wanted to make a reasonably fair comparison for before & after, but in the "before" picture below, I did not bleach & scrub, since we knew we were resurfacing, and they said not to bother because they do a rather extreme clean/prep.  I did use a whole lot of spray cleaner, but as you can see, that didn't help much.


Now, there's no grout to get stained; everything is covered by the seamless Miracle Method coating.  They also did our kitchen sink, repairing a couple of chips in the porcelain; it looks like a new sink, especially with our new faucet.

Kitchen tile counter - AFTER
Kitchen faucet - AFTER
We chose "Kohler White", a semi-gloss, but not shiny finish.