Saturday, March 29, 2014

Panhandling Angels


My sister and her girls are visiting this week for Spring Break {hooray!} and so yesterday we planned a trip to see the Modern Masters exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. We love art museums. Denver just happens to have a fantastic one, especially for families and kids, but that's a whole other post. 

I wrote this out on Facebook yesterday and almost hit "Post" when I decided it was too long and should go on the blog instead. Here is what happened on the way to the art museum: 

I dropped off some Dunkin Donut coffee for Justin at his work, and then headed toward a gas station. I had 35 miles left in the tank, said my Volvo. I sometimes wait to fill up until I have 15 miles left, but last week I got low and the car started to shudder like it was about to run out. I made it to the gas station on time, that time. Justin said we probably had a batch of bad gas in the car, and we brushed it off. But just in case, I didn't want to run out again. 

I TOTALLY ran out of gas. 35 miles left? Yeah right. 

I was 1 1/2 blocks away from Conoco. I could SEE Conoco. I could not get there. I was stuck at Alameda and Lincoln--and if you know Denver then you know this is a crazy-busy intersection, just south of downtown. 

I'm curious and I always want to ask people their opinions, but it seems rude to ask, but I will anyway...do you give money to panhandlers? 

I had sat at that light for a good 3 minutes, avoiding the stares of a man and woman--a couple, I assume they were married--holding cardboard signs asking for money. Sometimes in the past I've given money. I don't always have it on me and that seems like an easy out. Women, mothers, and pregnant women especially, sometimes get me to open up my wallet. Sometimes I ignore them too. I have mixed feelings. I've watched enough episodes of Intervention to know that many times--not all times, but many--the money goes directly to drugs. I've also read the articles in the paper about the person who lives in a nice house and earns $55k a year by standing on street corners asking for money. It's troubling to many of us, I think. To give or not to give? Who am I to judge? Is it just my job to give when I see a need, trusting God to make use of it? 

We go with our church to the Denver Rescue Mission to serve supper every once in a while, so there's that, right? That's enough, right? Hmm...

Anyway, back to Alameda & Lincoln yesterday... I was late for the art museum, my family was calling to see where I was. The light turned green, traffic started to move, and my car died. My shoulders dropped along with my eyebrows and I groaned. Then, I acted fast, I dialed Justin and hit the hazard lights button at the same time, rolled down my windows and began to wave people around me. At least there were two lanes. Traffic was super heavy. I was so embarrassed. 

Luckily, Justin was only about a half mile away at work. Unfortunately, we're a one car family. He bummed a ride off a co-worker and--at my not-so-loving encouragement--went fast toward the gas station. 

The female panhandler walked over to my car and asked if they could help push my car. I told her no, that my husband would be there any minute {I hoped} and thanked her. I didn't want to trouble them, honestly. They'd have to push my SUV across a busy intersection and into an alley. 

Then, people started honking. It was taking Justin "forever" {this was one of those moments when seconds slowed to hours} to come rescue me. I was worried a cop would come along. I was worried everyone passing me was thinking, "Dumb blonde runs out of gas."

Probably a good 100 cars passed me, it was that busy. Many of them honked. Not a single person stopped to offer help. I don't know why that surprised me so much. Justin, being a car guy, cannot pass a stranded motorist without stopping to offer help.

And seriously, what kind of person honks at a lady with three babies in a stalled car? They were honking as they passed me, as if I can suddenly decide to make a stalled car work just because someone sounds their horn at me? Grow up and go around me, is what I say to those people. In the moment, however, it was humiliating.

Noticing my dismay at the honking, probably also seeing how I was hiding my face with one hand and waving angry drivers around with the other hand, the female panhandler came back. 

"Are you sure you don't want us to give you a push?"

Another angry motorist honked.

I accepted her offer. She waved her husband over and they started pushing me. Suddenly, people appeared out of nowhere off the streets and about five street people {homeless? vagrants? panhandlers? beggars? street urchins? there is no kind word for them, it sadly seems} became my angels {there's a kind word for them}, pushing my car across Lincoln. It took the entire green light cycle for them to make it across.

I just hope some of those would-be-honkers and angry motorists were watching as the homeless stopped to help. I was certainly humbled in that moment. 

I tried to stop once I made it barely into the alley, they insisted on taking me further, into the parking lot of an auto parts store. That involved pushing my car over a curb. 

One of them turned my steering wheel for me, as the power steering was gone and we had to turn it as far left as it could go--and he apologized when his cigarette smoke got in my face. As if that was what I was worried about at the moment. 

I thanked them profusely, but they disappeared quickly after shaking my hand and wishing me well. The couple was the last to say goodbye and I quickly reached for my wallet and gave them what little cash I had on me, feeling ashamed that I hadn't given them that cash before the entire fiasco had even started. A couple of "God bless yous" and "thanks yous" later, they were gone and Justin was there with a gas can. We then filled the car up at the closest gas station off a non-busy street {I insisted} and Justin could tell there was still 2 gallons in our car, so apparently the something is off and needs to be adjusted. Whatever. I don't speak auto, but I'm glad my husband does.

Those panhandlers also saved me from the embarrassment of having my husband show up with the gas can in front of Denver's most angry motorists. For all those motorists at Alameda & Lincoln know, it was the carburetor. {Honey, does our car have one of those?}

A half hour later I was wondering through the Denver Art Museum with my family and thinking about how blessed I was just to be there.

All that to say, I now think differently of panhandlers. They were unlikely heroes, helping me when they didn't have to, while many other also-capable people only gave me angry honks or passed me by.

That is all. 

Heather


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Peep Show

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We enjoy the urban homesteading stuff so much--beekeeping, canning, gardening at church and such--and have long wanted chickens. So, now that we have our own home and no HOA to send threatening letters when we have a pumpkin on our porch on November 1st, we can finally keep our own chickens! And when Justin decided he wanted to go buy a few for his birthday yesterday, who was I to say no?

We drove out to Elizabeth and hand-picked four adorable chickies. In Denver, we can keep up to eight. We plan to get four more at a later date, but for now we decided four was a good start. There wasn't as good of a selection of breeds either, a tad picked over. I hope the next four can be two Araucanas and two Buff Orpingtons--those are the breeds I want the most.
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For now, please meet: Betty the Delaware X Hampshire, Agnes "Aggie" the Cherry Egger, Dorothy the Plymouth Rock, and Mabel the Gold Star {aka, Red Sex Link}.
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We're keeping them under the heat lamp for now, and away from the cats, but I couldn't resist a little photo shoot with our little chickies this morning. Please enjoy the peep show.
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After all, they're only cute like this for, like, a day and a half; then they hit their awkward, ugly teen years.
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Eisley and Violet have been so good with them. I'm very proud. They've been quiet and gentle. We want our chickens to be more pets than livestock, so I hope we can get them used to us and not turn them skittish.
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I mean, come on, what is more adorable than a new baby chick? Nothing!
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Violet and I both find Big Betty to be our favorite. She's a classic yellow chick, but when she's grown, she'll look like this. Eisley loves the black one, Dorothy, who will also be gorgeous as an adult.
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This is, of course, hoping they all turn out to be female. The sexing is hard to do, and they are wrong about 10% of the time. So if any of these HENS turn out to be HENRYS...let's just say, we'll at least have our winner, winner, chicken dinner. No cockerels allowed in the city.
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So take a good look with your peepers at our peepers real quick like, they're already getting some of their big girl feathers in.
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We have a few weeks to build or buy a chicken coop. I don't know whether the chicken came before the egg, or vice versa, but we certainly put our horse before the cart by buying chicks before the coop. If nothing else, it's good motivation to get building! Post edit: our problem may have just been solved via free shed on Craigslist. Please standby.
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Happy springtime from us and our new chickies!

Cheers,
Heather

Monday, March 17, 2014

First party in the new house!

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Justin turns 30 tomorrow and last week I thought, what better way to force us to do some major unpacking and settling than by inviting people over this weekend? So that's what we did. 

Justin's mom has spent the last two weeks helping us refinish floors, paint, move, pack, clean up the rental when we got food poisoning, and driving back and forth a million times from our urban home to her rural farm an hour away--SO, naturally, she offered to cook the corned beef and cabbage that the birthday boy requested. Because who needs rest and relaxation? Not her! {Thank you, Holly! And I sincerely hope you're getting some R&R right now.} Our families came over to enjoy the Irish birthday feast and to see how our new home is shaping up.
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His birthday cake request? Pineapple upside-down. A great dessert to pair with corned beef and cabbage, no? Hey, it's his birthday, so I drove to Trader Joe's and bought a fresh pineapple, then I came home and cooked it exactly how Chris Kimball would have liked.
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Love the taste of pineapple, but have never liked the texture. I have to say, this cake was actually pretty yummy. Plus, it looked like it was straight out of a 1960s cookbook, so I was happy.

Since we just moved and clearly need more things in our garage, I asked everyone to go in on one big gift for Justin. We got him a tool chest, because he really needed and wanted one, but I knew he'd never buy one for himself.
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It was heavy, so we put on the wheels in the front yard. Our new neighbors must think we're strange.
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Happy birthday, Justin! Thanks for the good excuse to get everyone together and get some major unpacking done...on the main level at least. The basement? Yeah...let's not go there.

But if you wish to see a few photos of what the new house is starting to look like, keep scrolling.

I really want to find a unique, fun new light fixture for the dining room. I can't wait to replace it.
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It's strange moving into a new home. The body memory is gone, a weird phenomenon when you're walking to the kitchen or the closet, not knowing where you're going because you're not used to where things are yet. It doesn't quite feel like my home, not yet. The walls need fresh paint and the floors need some of our own messes for that to happen.
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When we walked out of our clean, empty rental for the last time, I actually did get a tad teary. {Yes, mom, you were right--okay!} After four years in that house, bringing two babies home there, I was more comfortable there than at this new house. I know that will change with time. I love the new house, don't get me wrong. I'm just not well acquainted with it yet. Does that make sense?
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In the rental I knew all the quirks: the floorboards that creaked the loudest when stepped on, the locations of outlets, the temperament of the fussy thermostat...the clawfoot tub.
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I have some little changes to make, so if you come over right now, it might look a bit undone here. The floorboards, for example, are still missing. There were two planter inserts in the half-wall/cabinets. Part of me wanted to keep them there, but between cats and kids I knew they wouldn't last anyway. At first the plan was to get a board to paint and attach so it was just a shelf. Just today I had another thought...so we'll see. But this is the fun part, living here and waiting for inspiration to hit me.
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{I need to finish painting the top of the dining table.}

Then there is this bathroom.
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Getting some of my own decor in there helped a bit, but honestly, I really dislike this bathroom. I want to gut it. I have it all planned out in my head. That might be years from now, if I'm honest, unless we win the lottery or something. And we don't play the lottery, so...
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But my Bubs keeps me smiling! Sorry for the gross food photo, I never thought messy-faced baby photos were cute until they featured my own children. Now? Smooshed PB&J has never been more adorable.
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I love how my colorful decor pops against the gray walls. I bought that sign at Renew, it's a Beatles quote. I'm still trying to get my kids to obey the Beatles.
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I love the REAL fireplace and having a mantle! I want to get some good photos of the kids to blow up and decorate it with, but for now it's all my pastel decor. Mantles are tricky spaces.
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Unpacking isn't all bad, I've been finding some things I didn't even unpack in the last home--so it feels like brand new stuff! I've missed my Galileo thermometer. I'd thought this was long gone, but then I pulled it out of a box. What do you know?
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It doesn't look like it from these photos--you should see the basement--the bottom line: we still have too much crap. Also, happy birthday Justin.

Cheers, 
Heather

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The BIG Reveal: Stain & Pain...I mean PAINT

Our First Home Project
Before & After
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The photo above is what our home looked like when we got possession, one week and a day ago. As you might already know, we took an entire week before moving in so that we could do a little work. The floors needed refinishing, and I knew I'd want to paint those beams, so we got to it right away.
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Justin's parents came to help with the floors, my parents came to paint. It was a hard week. Not just because of all the labor and time constraints, we experienced two unexpected setbacks with the sanding, but also just having three little ones to entertain while all this was going on. We are both exhausted and sore. We are also so proud of what we accomplished. So here we finally are, I'll show you what went down and how it turned out...
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Justin's mom started right away by tearing out the carpet in our master bedroom. It was over twenty years old. It was nasty. It had to go, and there was precious original hardwood under there.

Meanwhile, we cleaned out the fireplace, and got out our paintbrushes.
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Justin Sander did most of the sanding. It was dirty work. Seriously, I would never recommend anyone do this while living in the home. Between the dust and the fumes, you'd die. Or at least you'd be very uncomfortable.
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But the hard work is, oh, SO rewarding. There was some awkwardness in acquiring a home that had been lived in by the same occupant for the last eighteen years. I can't wait to get some paint on some of these walls.

The thing about floors: it's the one part of your home that you're always in contact with. When they feel dirty and gross, your whole home and body does. So seeing our floors nicely stripped, sanded, and smoothed was a beautiful sight indeed.
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They looked brand new. I almost wanted to leave them that way. Almost.
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Refinishing floors is tedious work. You can't just sand and stain, in between you have to "tack". I still don't know what this step was exactly. Justin the Sander simply told me we had to do it.
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Finally, after all the sanding, sanding, sanding, and sanding {we had to go over every square inch at least three times, then buff, as well as some hand sanding}, it was time to try out our stain.
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Justin and Paxton finished the buffing together. They are thinking of starting a business, Sander & Son Sanding. {For as many "sanding Sander" jokes I made last week, my husband and his parents laughed at 0% of them.} {Also, people always try and tack an "s" onto the end of our name, so it's "Sanders", and this upsets me more than anyone else in Justin's family.}
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Justin and I are true soul mates. We made the decision on stain quite easily. We never disagree about such choices. We both wanted a dark stain, like espresso. We chose Royal Mahogany by Dura Seal.
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Actually--true story--we both considered a gray stain first. We loved the idea. Then we got caught up watching all those Rehab Addict shows, and the star of that show remodels and flips historic houses, restoring them to their original beauty. She is amazing. She says never to renovate to trends, always go with timeless looks that fit the era of your home. So, then we agreed: a dark stain was our favorite. It was an easy choice for both of us, we never looked back. {Plus, gray walls AND floors? That's a little depressing, dontcha think?}

A lot of people stress about paint, stain, and finish choices. I've always found such decisions to be extremely easy. I pick colors and finishes in a snap. In the hardware store, millions of paint chips don't intimidate me. I can easily locate the exact color I want just by glancing them over.

I knew I wanted darker gray walls, in part because I have so much colorful furniture and a green couch, we needed something more neutral--but I don't like browns and beige. I knew I wanted to white wash that fireplace, and all the trim. I knew I wanted the walls to be satin finish--I almost always chose satin--and the white paint to be semi-gloss. I knew I wanted the floor varnish to also be semi-gloss. Early on in this process, when our home was still under contract, I went Googling for "white beams gray walls dark floors". This is what I found, and it was exactly what I was going for.
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So...!



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This is our living room, as of this morning.
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And the adjoining dining room too.
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This is what the dark floors look like, from the corner of the master bedroom. {That's looking across the hall into the girls' room.}
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The freshly painted white fireplace.
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The only thing unfinished is the baseboard. We'll get to that soon enough...
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To say it simply: it's exactly what I had in mind. Exactly.
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This is Paxton's room. It's funny how I usually avoid dark colors, but for some reason, I was really drawn to the idea of a dark mahogany floor. I love it. I think it's elegant and sophisticated.
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Peekaboo! Hall closet.
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The view from the entryway. I love the semi-gloss. I read all over that satin finish is the big trend with floors right now, but I'm so glad we chose semi-gloss.
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The dining room windows are nice and bright. This is a HUGE change from our north-facing, dinky, dark rental.
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Oh then there's THIS. I love/hate it. I really do love it. A built-in plant wall/book shelf/cabinet system. Of course, I painted it white. It was lots of work taking all that hardware off to paint the doors, but I loved the original hardware. I think it has a real cottage charm, which fits the house fa├žade. Can't wait to get a quarter round trim on the base there.
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Here are a few fun before & afters for you:
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We left the house at 12:15 a.m. last night. We'd been there late, putting finishing touches--panels and such--in place. This afternoon, we started loading the truck up, and now this house is full of our furniture. {We were SO blessed to be able to use the truck with a lift gate from Justin's work.} It makes it feel even more like ours to see our things inside. I'm sure more photo posts will follow as we get settled in.
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We. Are. SO. Ex.Haus.Ted.
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Was it worth it? Yes. Would we do it again later in life? NO.
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Okay, maybe.

Cheers,
Heather
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