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Blogging about gardening in zone 4, marriage, our golden retriever and life in general.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Harlow came with us to Eastern Washington for Thanksgiving. She's a good road trip dog, although she looks a little dubious of the upcoming adventure in this photo:

She's decided that laying across the bench in the back of the truck isn't close enough to us. Instead, laying with the front end on the center console between our front seats.

The best part though is seeing her interact with my parents. My mom has never been a dog person; she wasn't around one as a kid and so is awkward and uncertain around them. That, of course, only makes Harlow want to greet Sandi more insistently, with a case of the wiggles nearly 180 degrees, hard leaning into her, and a lake of excited pee. Once the pee gets cleaned up, there is a game of chase with a tennis ball. 

The best tennis ball thrower, though, is my dad, who spent half his Saturday tossing a tennis ball around their condo. Mike, who "doesn't like dogs", is smitten. 

And of course, there is Gretchen. Harlow likes to be a Helper Dog! when around Gretchen:

There are so many things I love about her. The morning wiggles, the expressive face, the smell of the top of her head, the way she falls asleep curled at my feet and her enthusiasm for playing in the snow, to name a few. She's pretty much a ball of awesome wrapped in a LOT of fur!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh it's lovely weather

For a 500 mile road trip.

Dusty has been talking up the "grand snow adventure" to Harlow. I'm starting to wonder if this is a terrible idea? But I wanna see my mommy, my family, my grandmas...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vinyl Windows

I work in historic preservation, yet own a new house. I want an old house, but even in a recession we couldn't afford one.

People come into my office every day trying to find information about replacing their historic wood windows with vinyl. They talk about the tax credits, energy savings, etc. Here's the deal: vinyl windows are more efficicent and better for weather savings is BS. The National Trust for Historic Preservation offers excellent information about the pros and cons of replacing old windows. The most interesting for me? Replacing windows has a 40 YEAR PAYBACK PERIOD. Thats right, with all the energy you'll save it'll take you 40 years to recoup your "investment" on new windows.

I had to berate my mom into keeping the old windows at the shack this fall. Instead of tearing them out, I finally convinced them to restore the windows and build storm windows for additional insulation and protection. A well fitting storm actually can be more efficient than a new window.

If you read yesterday's post about drapes, you know I utilize curtains, blinds and drapes to further insulate our home in the winter. Our "energy efficient" vinyl windows still get ice on the inside of them in the winter. Let me show you how we try to keep our north-facing bedroom warm in the winter:

First, insulated drapes, again.

Then, our double-cell blinds:
Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to rotate the photo!

Here's what our "energy efficient" vinyl windows look like on the back of the blinds:

Huh. Ice. And this is on the top rail. The ice on the bottom goes up half of the window.

 I'd hate to spend $6,000 in new windows for that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter started in Bozeman on Friday. I went into my hair appointment on a blustery late fall day and came out in the middle of a blizzard. Snow blown from the east snaking across the icy streets into finger drifts, three degrees on the bank sign and the requisite freezing of nostril hairs.

By Saturday afternoon I knew I had to deal with the kitchen doors ASAP. I hung the biggest blanket we had in the bottom half of the door over night in an effort to keep the two degree weather outside and the floor in the middle of the kitchen warm.

Sunday morning I hit the fabric store in search of a bargain. All their decorating fabrics were 50% off, but I still found this great red silk material for $6/ yard. It's usually $25. They had just enough. I also picked up some thick inter-lining (think a thin layer of fleece) and some back lining for $54. These curtains are $70 at Target, since I needed the 96" length.

By late last night I had this:

Ignore the saggy curtain rod. We're addressing it later this week. Sorry for the blurry photo too; Harlow wanted to say hello!

They came out really, really well. I had absolutely no waste, which means I purchased just as much as I needed and not more. 

They seem to have made a difference in last night's 0-degree weather. There was ice on the inside of the door and on the metal threshold. 

The only problem? I want to be able to pull the curtains all the way to the right when we want the doors open. This means there can't be a central support point on the curtain rod. And my cheap-ass purchased the flimsy curtain rod instead of the $50 beefy one. So now we have to decide if we can live with cheap, but hoopty looking curtains, or drop more money on a nicer rod.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Making a difference

I can't exactly figure out when the shift was, but in the last month or so, I seem to be finding a groove at work. After months of discontent, it feels good to be in a place where I'm busy, and happy and excited to be working on the projects on my desk.

My role at work has been seen for the last 10 years as regulatory. The last hurdle someone has to get past to develop their project. Needless to say, if I, or the rules I work under, don't agree with the developer's planned project, things get sticky in  a hurry.

I can't remember now if I was given an official "go-ahead", or just took the initiative on my own, but sometime this fall I ended up on the "putting projects together" end of things. This is, of course, the much more successful end to be on.

Right now I'm writing a handful of grant applications, while also managing another and working to redevlop and redefine my program. I think I have the opportunity to create the job I want out of the job I have. The sense of enthusiasm and interest and engagement I have in my position right now is refreshing.

I want to be known as a woman who gets things done. I don't want to be a hurdle; I want to be a resource. I don't need the credit for it, I just want to make things like redeveloping a historic building happen.

It seems like I'm in the right place, professionally, for now. Add that to being in a good place personally, financially, emotionally, etc. and well, things are pretty damn good now.

So a week out from Thanksgiving, I can tell you I'm thankful to be exactly where I am right now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kitchen door... Curtains?

I love the French doors in our kitchen. They let in so much light. They make grocery-hauling in super easy. They are a huge energy loss in the winter... Wait, what?

 Yeah. Remember last winter when I used a tension rod and a doubled-over quilt to insulate these doors? It worked well; as noted the time or two that I pulled the curtain back and found frost on the inside of the door.

We've added some weatherstripping to the bottom, so hopefully that helps. But I'm also a big believer in curtains as insulation. I LOVE our double cell, top-down/ bottom-up, cordless shades. They make such a difference in the energy loss around a window area. Believe me, if we could have afforded triple cell, I would have done those. I rave about them to everyone I know.  It's astonishing to have the top down halfway on the window, and look down and see a layer of frost in the little pocket between the window and the backside of the shade below you.

So of course, with this door, I'd love to have a a giant top-down/ bottom-up shade installed. In my mind we'd keep the top down halfway, essentially blocking the bottom half of the entire doorway from the trim to trim. We're supposed to only come in on the tile doorway in the winter, wet shoes and all, so this shouldn't be an access problem. It'd be a solution that saves us energy, while still providing great light into the space.

That would only cost us... let's see, carry the one... an arm and a leg. So the next alternative would be insulating drapes that we can at least pull shut to block the doorway on the coldest of nights. Kind of like the curtains my mother in law sewed from post-holiday sales tablecloths at Target for the dining room.

But that begs the question. Should the curtains for the kitchen match those in the dining room? Should they be hung at the same height (probably)? Should the curtain rods match (probably, again). Would it be okay to put curtains up in the kitchen only in the winter, but leave the curtain rods bare in the summer? Could I put up curtains that are mostly red with a gold stripe?

AND, for extra credit on this quiz: Can you spot Harlow in the photo below? Helper Dog!!!!

Tell me internets, what should I do?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A selfish conundrum...

DJ and I are both home today, on a Thursday, since it's Veteran's Day. Harlow is beside herself; her people are home on a weekday!!!

I realized the other day that since we're headed to Colton for Thanksgiving and staying in Bozeman for Christmas, I should probably get the Christmas shopping for my family done. I've got ideas... I just need to shop!

My mom asked me the other day what I need for Christmas. It's kind of a weird question to answer when the things I most need right now are waaay out of the ballpark for our families. We really need a new bed and bedroom furniature. Mattress Mill, in Bozeman, makes awesome beds. They're a local company, they have a one-year, no questions asked, return policy. And gaurantee construction for 10 years. We want to purchase a bed from them... it's about $1,000 (ouch).

We also really a new bedframe. In terms of bedroom furniture, my style is well-built classics, but more mix and match than matchy-matchy. My current obsession is this bed from, where else, Pottery Barn. I don't like footboards. I always hip-check myself on them.

We've also talked a lot about being more environmentally/ socially/ health concious about the meat we eat. I love a good steak. Costco rocks my face off. But considering that this beef probably came from Argentina instead of across the back fence? Well... we could do better. I'd like to split a beef or something with someone, but we don't have a deep-freeze to do so. Something like this, maybe? I want something with a high Energy Star rating...

Working on the garage is our winter project right now. We'd like to install a heater (since it's detached, it doesn't get warmth from the house), insulate, sheetrock and organize the garage. We need a storage system. We need a workbench. In short, I'm trying to convince my dad that they should come over for Christmas and help work on the Garage. Mike is a good garage-organizer...

We need an electronic fence for Harlow. We need an armoire for a linnen closet in the hallway. We need... well, major house things, you know? And it seems so rude to be all, "mommy! drop a crapload of money on a new freezer for me!".

But in the meantime, Harlow is helping me decide what to get Dusty for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


We live in Zone 4, per the USDA climate zone maps. It means that plants suitable for our climate need to be hardy to -40.

Hydrangeas are notoriously impossible to grow here. My Mother-In-Law gave me an "Endless Summer" hydrangea last spring, and I'd like to keep it growing.* To that end, I insulated it for winter last week by staking around the plant, wrapping burlap around the stakes, and filling in around the plant and in the burlap with leaves from the Aspen trees.

* The hydrangea didn't exactly do well this summer. I never got the big puffy balls of flowers. I'm blaming this on two things: I didn't fertilize it enough and the neighbor's dog lifts his leg and pees on it every time he walks out their door. Clearly Trigger the dog and I will be having a conversation next spring...

Monday, November 8, 2010

The heart

Harlow has a way of laying that shows us how much she loves us:

See the heart she makes with her front paws and chest?