Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dinosaur Day Afternoon

It really feels like summer in Portland now. After a couple of solid weeks of 70s and up weather, I'm back in the habit of putting sunscreen on after I shower every morning, without even consulting weather channel dot com first. Today I slathered up and aired out the shimmering heat wave in my car to go teach an art lesson in deep southwest Portland. It was loads of fun. Check out this missing-tooth-gapped grin. How could you not love it?!

I donated two hours of my time to my friend Barrie's boys' school auction, and Barrie ended up convincing the highest bidder to share the "art party" with her and another family. There were five kids total (aged three to six) and lots of adults to help out, which always makes things so much easier. Using dinosaurs as a theme, we learned some basic art concepts like 2D vs 3D, using your eyes vs using your imagination, basic perspective (bigger is closer, smaller is farther, as well as overlapping to show relation), and paint color mixing. I'm always amazed and humbled with what kids come up with. Seriously inspiring.

I enjoyed putting my teaching pants back on, even if it was only for a couple of hours. Plus, the host mom inquired as to how much I would charge to come and do it again sometime! Maybe I should put out feelers in Eugene to see if parents would be willing to pay me to come over to their houses, make fun messes and then leave. Not a bad day's work, if you ask me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What I did for my Memorial Day vacation...

So, what with the finding out I didn't get into grad school and then with the finding out the next day that i *did* get into grad school, and with the classes starting in June and all the ridiculous piles of things I need to get done to successfully move to another town and start a college program that will, with luck, lead to a new career path, I decided what I really needed to do was overhaul my yard. Why, you may ask, was this my warped priority? Well, for three reasons:

One. I am leaving my beloved house in the hands of my trusty but busy friends/tenants, and I want to make the yard low-maintenance enough that it won't get out of hand. As it is, the neighbors are occasionally known to lean over the fence and wax wistfully on the horticultural virtues of the lady who previously owned my house. "My, she did wonderful things with the yard," they say... and after a pregnant pause, "she was a beautiful woman, too." Damn you, Kelly Hugget! I still get your mail after three years AND I have to hear about how effing great you were?

Two. I don't want to have to make disclaimer jokes about how "my yard will look much better *after* I get my degree, ha ha," any more.

Three. Any free time my brain has to wander will be spent cooking up reasons to be anxious about all of this transitional stuff, so I feel obligated to fill my empty head space with something mentally occupying and fill my free time with something physically exhausting.

To that end, I have fallen asleep to dreamy mental plans of fluffy mulch and sprouting ground cover for the last week and a half. The exhausting part took place over the three day weekend. Happily, it involved the fun noise and power-tool-machismo of my new best friend, the sod cutter. For those who don't know, a sod cutter is basically a heavy duty lawn mower that mows your lawn completely off, including the roots. You can set it to cut up to 3 inches deep (I did an inch and a quarter), and it cuts in neat strips that you can roll up like carpet.

A huge thanks to Raf and his truck for making my second attempt at sod cutter rental a success. (Note to potential sod cutter renters: do not show up to the Home Depot tool rental center with a Pontiac Vibe "sport" wagon expecting to fit a 350 pound piece of machinery in the back. The tool guys will laugh at you.) Many more thanks to my good-humored manual laborers, which included the most neighborly neighbor I've ever met, Owen, and the best housemates *anyone* has ever had, Ruth and John. John wins a million gold stars, as he stuck with the project for all three days, despite miserable allergies. I am going to write a letter to the pope requesting that he be sainted immediately.

In any case, here are the before and after shots of the side of the house with the raised beds and fruit trees.

All that in only two days! I'm going to build another raised bed this week to put in the empty space at the bottom. Still, we're going to have a good amount of dark, rich soil left over. Anyone who lives within wheel-barrowing distance should come take some home!

On Monday we mulched the other side of the house, and put down topsoil and turf seed in the back. I'm trying out some alternative turf from ProTime, a local Portland company. They worked with Portland State students to develop lawn alternatives that are more environmentally sound. I got the "ProTime 705 PDX Ecology Mix," which isn't as showy or interesting as their flowering or herbal mixes, but it was the one that required the least water and mowing. It's composed of a few varieties of clover (which self-fertilize) and yarrow and some short, hardy grasses. Supposedly, it should stay green through the summer without watering. I'm optimistically skeptical. The only annoying thing is, the ProTime store on Ankeny is only open from nine to four on weekdays, so I ended up ordering a bag of seed online and having it delivered instead of just biking by to pick it up. That sort of defeats the whole environmental angle a little bit, but oh well.

Now that the mountainous piles of soil and mulch that have been blocking half of the street (much to the chagrin of at least one nosy neighbor) have been largely conquered and the equally massive pile of yard debris has been hauled away, I've had a chance to take note of the beautiful little fruits the garden is producing like crazy. Here are a few photos, adorable enough for a baby album, of the grapes, strawberries, blueberries, pears, and single fig I plan to make the trip up from Eugene to sample this summer:

Next up: re-routing the down spouts and fixing the fence. Yay tools!


Oh, ALSO, I went to some incredible places in the last couple of years. There are photos of my trip to visit Simon and go to Aileen's wedding in Brazil here and photos of my trip to visit Eva in South Africa here. I sure hope I get opportunities to travel for grad school, cause I've already got the itch for another overseas adventure.


Hello there. I find myself at a time of transition, and it makes me realize how many things have changed since I last posted anything on this here interbot blog. I'll do a long post tonight, but to start off, here's the short list of top things that have happened in the past 2 years that are highly significant to me, personally.

1) I got a job as a design lead at XPLANE wherein I got paid to draw stick figures in front of corporate big-wigs (and subsequently got too busy to blog at work).
2) Barack Obama replaced George Bush, and Michelle Obama became the best first lady *ever.* Next step: get the Obamas to adopt me as their third (but eldest) child.
3) I got seriously single.
4) I got into the Masters program for Landscape Architecture at University of Oregon! Wa hoo!

All major, exciting changes. I'm a little sad to be leaving my great job and talented coworkers behind, and I'm seriously bummed to be moving away from Portland and all of my fabulous friends for three years (I fear Eugene), but this grad program is going to be amazing. Things are falling into place one by one as if the Universe and I are in cahoots. More on all that later. Just wanted to say a quick hello. Hello! More soon...