We seem to have found a kitten. We are calling her Nemo and she is the cutest. Pretty sure she will be staying.


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Baby Raccoon Adventure!

Baby Raccoon!!!

The other day this little girl came up to Geoff while he was gardening. We left it alone and it crawled under the porch. The next morning it was still there, so we called Wildlife Rescue Team, Inc. and told them where it was. They let us know that they picked him up.

Later, though, we saw another raccoon in the same spot, so we called them back. A volunteer came out and fed the kit pedialyte, and reunited him with his sister.

Baby Raccoon

Baby Raccoon

Then, we went to a friend’s house, and upon returning home, found another baby raccoon wandering in the middle of the street. Geoff scooped him up and we kept him on the back porch for the night, and Geoff ran to CVS to pick up some pedialyte and a bottle.

Baby Raccoon

The next day Geoff took the kit to the rescue organization. Hope the three baby raccoons are doing well, and as cute as they are, I hope they don’t return to this neighborhood because I think they fight with the neighbor cats.

Baby Raccoon!!!

Baby Raccoon!!!

The video below is kind of long but you can hear the cute sounds they make. :D See more pics on flickr.

baby raccoon from karindalziel on Vimeo.

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Oogie the doggie

On December 19, we got a dog. His name was Japetto [sic] at the shelter, but we named him Oogie Boogie.

Oogie Boogie the new doggie!

He seemed so sad and calm at the shelter – turns out that was probably just the painkillers. He was really good at raising his paw for shakes, which is still one of his favorite activities. He is mostly a good dog, despite a bit of destruction.

Ugh Oogie

Sometimes I’m still struck by the thought “I have a dog.” It’s weird. We’ve always been “the cat people” but over the last few years we’ve been more active outside, and our cats are strictly indoor pets. I’m looking forward to having him “help” me with gardening, once it’s warmer and we close up all of the possible escape routes in the backyard.

We’ve already been able to take part in exploring Wilderness Park. While I am looking forward to walking in the summer, too, the winter is nice for the lack of ticks and fleas. I’m sure looking Oogie over for ticks will be loads of fun.

Oogie wilderness park 2/24/13

We even got him a little backpack so he can carry his own poop when he goes out on walks.

Oogie got a backpack

So, I guess I’m a dog person after all.

More to come on training progress and such.

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Putting up a picture rail in a house with plaster walls

Picture Rail

This was a post I intended to write… two years ago. In fact, I thought I did write it! But then I went to direct someone to it and found I’d never written it (except, apparently, in my head.)

So this post will be about how my husband and I put up a picture rail in our 1920′s plaster wall house. Putting things up in a plaster walled house is different from putting it up in a drywalled house – stud finders and the like are pretty much useless.

So here goes!

New Picture Rail

Equipment you will need:

  • Picture rail moulding. We bought ours at lowes (search for “picture moulding”). Not all Lowes carry it, we had to go to omaha. Hilariously, lowes apparently has no idea how to use picture rail, as evidenced by this mailer I got from them. You can also find picture rail at blick art materials online (search for moulding) and salvage shops usually have some around, though it’s often encrusted with several decades of paint. You will need enough to cover all the area you want moulding on (duh) plus some extra because you’ll have to cut most of the pieces before the edge to line up with studs. I think we bought 4 extra pieces and used all but one. Important! When picking out boards, be sure to sight along them (like this picture demonstrates) to make sure it is not too warped. (We bought almost all the stock lowes had, so our options were not great.)
  • Electric Screwdriver. And an extension cord if corded.
  • Drill bits. You’ll need a variety of drill bits, mostly in smaller sizes. I found these broke while drilling into plaster a lot, so get extra.
  • Screws. 3″ long skinny screws to go into the studs.
  • Miter box and saw. I used a crappy mitre box and saw – it works, but a nicer saw especially would have been better. (note, you could use a mitre saw, but the boards are so small and you need to measure as you go – we found it was easier and less messy to just use a mitre box.)
  • Clamps. To clamp the mitre box to a table.
  • A step stool. Especially if you are short, like me.
  • Ruler.
  • Level.
  • Coping saw.
  • Small piece of wire.
  • Optional: hot glue gun. This is really useful for holding boards up while you are prepping stuff, but if you have extra hands you may not need it.
  • Picture rail hooks. You can find these at a variety of places, from the heavy duty to the lightweight. Our local hardware store has the lightweight variety, but we had to order some heavier duty ones as well. (a big heavy picture fell when we used the lightweight ones to hang it… oops.)

Step 0: Prep

Measure out how much picture rail you will need (see above), gather supplies and clear lots of space to work.

 Step 1: Paint

Painting the living/computer room

Paint the walls if you are going to. Paint the picture rail to match the walls at this time. We chose to hang our picture rail about 2.5 feet from the ceiling, so we painted two colors and then painted the picture rail to match the bottom color. I’ve seen some places recommend you put them up and then paint, but we found painting beforehand much easier and it only required a little touch up paint afterwards. If you are going to stain the picture rail, I dunno what the easiest approach is.

Step 2: Find the Studs!

New Picture Rail This turned out to be one of the most challenging things. Stud finders didn’t find anything under our plaster walls, so we had to make some educated guesses. Step one is to find one stud – usually located to the right or left of a door. How we did this was to use a small drill bit and drill a hole where we suspected there was a stud. If we were right, wood shavings came out when we pulled out the drill bit. If we were wrong, I used a curved piece of wire to feel around for the stud. If I didn’t find anything, I’d move over about 6 inches and try again.

Some notes:

  • Do this where you’re going to put the picture rail (I guess that’s obvious) and the picture rail will cover up the small holes. If you want, you can fill back in the holes, but we didn’t.
  • Be careful of false positives – we had pipe for old gas lamps in the wall, wires, all sorts of stuff. You really have to feel around with that wire to make sure what you have found is a stud and confirm it with the drill bit.
  • Studs are generally 16″ apart, and will probably be pretty regular in some homes. Ours were not super regular – they varied from 12″-20″ or so.
  • Use level to make a vertical line where the stud is. You can touch up the paint later to hide it.

We found the studs on one wall and then put up the picture rail on that wall, and then found all the other studs on the floor.

Step 3: put up the picture rail

Start in a corner, and keep the end flush – that is, don’t cut this end at a 45 degree angle. File a bit off the back if you need to to keep it flush- old houses have curvy corners sometimes. hold up the picture rail and find the stud closest to the end. Here’s the tricky part: you need to cut the picture rail at a 45 degree angle so when you put up two boards, the screw goes through both of them and into the stud.

New Picture Rail

So, mark the first board, cut it, and glue it into place (or have someone hold it). Then, cut the next board at an angle to match the first (it’s easy to get it backwards) hold it in place, and figure out where the next cut will need to be made before you glue that board in place. This is how you connect the boards on a straight wall. This is why you need so much extra – you’ll be losing up to 16″ off each board.

Going around outside corners is pretty easy: just cut each board at a 45 degree angle. It’s really easy to cut these just a teensy bit too short, though, so be careful! Imperfections can be hidden with plaster and paint later (provided you’re not staining, in which case: good luck!)

Working on inside corners is a bit tougher – you’ll need to do a coping joint. This makes it so you can fit one piece to another flat piece, and it works better than a simple miter because it’s a bit more forgiving. For instructions on how to do a good coping joint, take a look at this tutorial on coping joints from family handyman.

Picture Rail

Once you are done, you will have a rail with 3″ screws every 16″ or so, which means you can pretty much hang anything you want on it.

step 4: Finishing work

All that is left is to finish it up! Use plaster, sandpaper and paint to hide screw and edges.

New Picture Rail

You can also use plaster to hide any gaps caused by slightly wavy walls (oh, the joys of older houses!)

New Picture Rail

Just keep shoving plaster in there with a paint knife (or butter knife) and when it’s dry sand it and paint over it.

Finally, hang everything up. Some things take some ingenuity: For the guitar below, I straitened the bottom of a picture rail hook and screwed it into the guitar hanger.  Other useful hanging equipment might include: wire, twine, chain, ribbon, etc. Just remember, get hooks weighted for the thing you are hanging. That big tiger photo is the one that fell (luckily it didn’t get damaged) because we used the flimsy hooks to hang it up at first.


Why picture rail?

After almost two years with the picture rail, I am loving it as much as I thought it would. Nails are incredibly hard to put into plaster without damaging it – especially older plaster. But I have a lot of stuff I want to hang on the walls and change out often, so the picture rail was the perfect solution. You can check out my picture rail photo set on flickr for a few more images of our picture rail.

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“Gods of the Prairie” – a traveling theatrical event

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

Campfire scene of “Gods of the Prairie,” held in Cultiva Coffee.

It seems fitting that I follow up a pretty negative post about Lincoln with a post about what makes Lincoln delightful.

Friday night Geoff and I attended the August 17th show of “Gods of the Prairie” – a play put on by the Colonel Mustard Amateur Attic Theatre Company, based here in Lincoln. The Colonel Mustard had a kickstarter campaign to fund this project back in May, and I regret that I didn’t donate. You can bet that next time I will pitch in! You can visit the Gods of the Prairie Facebook Page and read the Journal Star article for more info.

The group released a video before the show which set the stage, and I didn’t watch. I did watch it after, though, and really liked the use of the artwork in the nebraska state capitol. (added link to video because it was not embedding).

The group also built tons of excitement (for me, at least) with their use of old homestead photos and really great photography of the cast in the prairie. Many of these pictures can be found on their facebook page.

Geoff and I walked down to 9th and D – about 6 blocks away from our house – a little before 7. There were tons of lincolnites there, many with their dogs and kids in tow. There were also tons of bikes- and two on Lincoln’s food trucks, GUP Kitchen and A La CARTe.

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

After the opening scene, we were encouraged to follow the map in the program on a kind of choose your own adventure theatre happening.

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

There were several main scenes, and a few side scenes along the way. We followed a guide for a while, but the guide was running a bit behind, so we ran ahead after a while. (and then we got lost, so following a guide is probably the way to go.)

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

In between the scenes you got to walk through the near south and everett neighborhoods, often confusing the people who lived there. Since I live in the neighborhood, I had an extra joy in rediscovering places I’d passed a lot but not really paid attention to.

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

We missed part of one of the scenes because we were running behind, but in the end it was OK, because the story is easy to follow.

My favorite scene was “Sam’s Lair”, held inside the historic Ferguson house near the Capitol on 16th Street. We had a little bit of time before the scene, so we were able to look around inside the Ferguson house, which was really neat. It had long been on my list of things to do in Lincoln.

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

Outside the Ferguson house, two more of Lincoln’s food trucks – Heoya and Nitro Burger set up shop. The lines were a little long, so Geoff and I never stopped for food, but it sure smelled good.

The penultimate scene was held on the west side of the Nebraska State Capitol – now the “tower of the gods.”

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

The pageantry was beautiful. the acting was great. I just loved it.

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

After the last scene at the capitol, there was a procession back to where the final scene would be held at 9th and D. The cast sang and we walked behind. The weather was absolutely perfect, too.

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

Back at 9th and D, the final scene took place. On Friday night, it seemed that some things weren’t working out quite right – some props missing, some lines missed. Everyone in the audience was so enchanted with the entire night that we really didn’t care, though. From pictures I have seen of Saturday night, the set was a bit more complete.

Gods of the Prairie, 8/17/2012, Lincoln, NE

I’ve never been to an event where there was such a feeling of good will at the end. A bunch of people came together and had a really, really great time. I gushed a lot on various social media networks about this, but I really think this will be an event that I will remember for a long, long time.

The only thing I regret is not being able to go both nights, and not being able to take more friends with us. We had a previous engagement Saturday, and that was the day most of the people we knew went. I’m glad Geoff and I got to go Friday, though, because it was a pretty nice date night for the two of us – it would have been different (but also fun!) in a group. I’m a little sad so many people I know didn’t get to go. I would have liked to share it.

I have a bunch of pictures up on Flickr from this event, and I’m embedding a slide show below. I hope the cast releases an official DVD or something, because I would love a keepsake. I look forward to more of the Colonel Mustard’s antics!

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Hate in Lincoln

The above picture is a screencap of the headlines from the Journal Star about the hate crime in lincoln, taken July 29. Here’s an interview with the survivor from an Omaha station.

What jumps out at me above is the number of shares on facebook for the stories. Their “it possibly didn’t happen” story has the most facebook shares. I am not faulting them for reporting that police haven’t ruled out a hoax, but for the fact that they made what should have been a one sentence addendum to another story a lead story, with a headline that read to many as “Police say hate crime didn’t happen.” I’m not making this up, people have actually said, in hushed tones to each other, “Did you see the story in the Journal Star that said the hate crime was made up?” (My husband pointed out that this is why they teach reading comprehension in school.)

The way that the Journal Star handled the story established absolute falseness in some people’s minds, and sewed enough doubt in others that they could quietly ignore the story with a good conscience. It allows those that hate gay people an easy out while also giving people who think “that kind of stuff doesn’t happen here” an easy out.

This kind of stuff does happen here. We don’t like to look at it, but there is a lot of hate in Lincoln. We have (mostly) religious people, who enjoy protected status under the law from being fired or from housing discrimination, actively campaigning to deny others those same rights. We have little old ladies that have an active fear of “those people” (as was once phrased to me when a nice old lady found out I’d moved into a mostly non white neighborhood.) We’ve had a lot of hate fueled violence in Lincoln lately. And we have a seething undercurrent of hate, one that isn’t expressed much publicly anymore but can be overheard in bars, at parties, in accidentally shared facebook posts. We have a bunch of people who are bitter that the world is changing.

The world will keep changing for the better. Gay marriage is rapidly becoming the miscegenation of our generation. There are still a bunch of people who think interracial marriage is evil, but they’re generally considered a fringe. Gay marriage, and gay rights more generally, will be seen the same way in another decade or two (and, I hope, rights for all LGBT people). We’ll marvel at how people used to quote the bible to denounce gay marriage (as they did with interracial marriage) and shake our heads at the blindness of previous generations.

It is encouraging to me how much love I have seen in the aftermath. A *lot* of people have stood up and said “this is not OK.” I believe they outnumber the hate filled population, and it makes me happier for the future.

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Bittersweet house closing

We just sold our first house, which we bought in 2003 and have been trying (off and on) to sell for three years. We’ve been renting it out for part of the last three years.

I have been pretty good, I think, about staying positive about the fact that our house lost 25% of its value over 8 years. I have blamed the housing bubble, but in truth, it was many things that contributed to it losing value: the neighborhood has gone downhill, the basement has scared people more than we’d expected, and we just paid too much for it. Some of these were things we could have predicted, some weren’t. I try not to beat myself up about it too much: after all, I can’t do anything about it now.

I keep having these FEELINGS, though. I feel like a chump, mostly. What if, in a year, they turn the recently (as in, they tore down the derelict houses right after we accepted an offer on the house) empty lots across the street into a park? That would have made the house much easier to sell. What if the buyer makes a few cosmetic changes and sells it for what we bought it for… or more? I mean, I feel like a chump most of the time anyway, but this has the potential for making me feel ultra chumpy.

On the other hand, the selling of the house is a huge load off my mind, and the value of that can’t be underestimated too much. I’ve avoided looking at jobs other places because I didn’t want to deal with long distance landlording or having to sell two houses when we moved. The current house is less of an issue, I think. It’s nicer, in a nicer neighborhood, has a finished basement, and we have done a lot to it (although one of those things made it into a two bedroom house instead of a three bedroom house.) Also, we owe less on it as a percentage of what we paid already, so we probably wouldn’t face the same problems.

I’m not looking to move soon, but knowing I *can* makes me feel less trapped, if that makes sense. It is also nice knowing that if a perfect job comes up somewhere, I can at least envision going for it.

I’ve been asked before if I would advise buying a house, and my advice varies. It depends on how likely a person is to stick around, how likely one is to fix broken things themselves, and what they want out of home ownership. It’s not necessarily cheaper than renting once you figure everything in, on the other hand, it is quite nice being able to have a place you won’t get kicked out of with a 30 day notice (that’s happened to us before – not pleasant). It is also quite nice being able to do whatever you want to a house, to customize it to your desires, and to know it is yours.

What I don’t recommend, after our errors the first time out, is to buy a house just to buy a house. What I wish we’d done is looked for a rental and a house at the same time and got whichever came first. Part of the reason we were looking is that we had 4 cats and needed a place that would allow them; hard to find from a landlord, but not impossible. We didn’t even look at that possibility, though. (To be fair, finding places back then was a bit harder. Craigslist exited, but wasn’t a one stop shop to find rentals in Lincoln like it is now). Maybe it would have ended up the same, but we could have given it a shot. One more thing I’d advise for new house buyers is: find a real estate agent with lots of experience. We went with one who had never helped someone buy a house before, and I think it’s part of why we didn’t get a great deal on the house.

In the end, we came out OK. We “lost” about $20,000 from buying to selling the house. Renting a comparable house probably would have been at least $12,000 more than the cost of the mortgage and fixing things for the years we lived there, so the loss isn’t quite as much as it seems. And we got a cat out of the deal: our cat Zipper was adopted after living in our yard for a while. (As an aside, that house was terrific for cats – mother cats brought their kittens under our porch, strays came by all the time, it was pretty nice.) I’m glad we bought a new house when we did, despite the bad timing. I love our new neighborhood, I love living on the south side of downtown again. I’m glad we had the experience of being a landlord. I will remember forever fun partieslovely walks to work, and the pretty flowers.

Forsythia and something else

Goodbye, little house.

I wrote this post before the closing intending to post it after (I was kind of superstitious about posting about the closing before it happened.)

The closing was easy, sign our names about 10 times and that’s it. We got a check for around $1700 and will get a little more when it gets out of escrow. We went swimming, and then Geoff bought a bike with much of the proceeds, and then we rode around, to the Lincoln Bike Kitchen, to the grocery store, to get ice cream, and to look at the construction in the Haymarket.

It was a fantastic day. Really, really great. So I’m not feeling all that bittersweet anymore.

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Wilderness Park

I don’t know why I have not made it to wilderness park more often. It’s about a 5 minute bike ride from home.

Here are some pictures I took today, I am going to try and make it there more often, so there will probably be more.

There’s a an entrance to something called “camp wilderness” off NW 1st st. The bridge on the end is closed to car traffic now, so it feels pretty remote.

The sun was shining rather prettily through the leaves today.

I wonder why this is here? Seems like and odd place (near NW 1st and calvert)

There was a huge field of milkweed and a bunch of bees. It’ll be nice when more butterflies are out.

You can find a few more pictures and get them large size on flickr.

Next time I want to remember my macro filters so I can take more close up pics of insects.

(Also see what wilderness park used to look like).

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Yard Progress

I have been wanting to do more blogging about gardening here. I think my interests are a bit too varied, wondering if I should split my blogs off more. Or just categorize well. I’ll start with categorizing.

Anyway, this year we got a very welcome new addition to the backyard: a privacy fence!

Yard Progress 2012

I’m pretty excited about this. Gardening is a solitary activity for me – either I am listening to the sounds of the birds or drowning out barking dogs and neighbor’s radio with my own music, and I’m intently doing absorbing work. But without a privacy fence… well, many of the neighbors behind me love to chat, and especially tell us how bad our yard looks or used to look.

Speaking of, here’s a brief history. We’ve been slow getting started, but it’s shaping up.

July 2009, a month after we moved in. The backyard is just a rectangle of grass and weeds. I really like all the clover, though.

Yard History

September of 2010 – the back fence is overrun with grape vine and bind weed. Eventually, the top part (which is just sort of strapped on) will fall over into the alley. The dirt patch in back is overrun with weeds, which makes the vegetable boxes hard to see.

Yard History

May of last year. Started to smother the side garden, but before we mulched the hell out of the yard.

Yard History

Last year we built the arbor, and have a clematis growing up one side and a porcelain berry vine (invasive in the east, but I don’t think so here) on the other side. If the porcelain berry does really well, we may move the clematis nearer to the house.

Yesterday, I bought a bunch of plants at the Spring Affair and put them in the ground. So far, my way of dealing with planting is to put a bunch of stuff in the ground, see what lives, and then move the plants later if I need to. I know that’s not the best. I am getting a little better at picking plants. I like native plants (mostly because they don’t need me to baby them) but I don’t stick exclusively to them. One nice thing about my “system” is that the hardy plants just do my choosing for me – once I know which ones lived, I can pick up more.

We have two rhubarb plants this year- we planted three last year and only 1 survived (the tiny, scrawny one.) Geoff’s dad gave us another and I think I’m going to build one more box for another two rhubarbs. Besides the fact that I love rhubarb and it freezes well, I just love the plant itself. Pretty red stalks and gorgeous leaves. And this year, I should be able to make this lavender rhubarb crumble, since I have lavender too.

Yard Progress 2012

I thought about moving the rhubarb, since I chose a kind of awkward place for it, but Geoff pointed out that if we move it, we won’t be able to harvest for yet another year. (You can’t harvest the year you plant, and sometimes not till two years later depending on how well it “takes.”) So it’ll stay, awkwardly placed between the tomatoes, peppers and basil on one side, and zucchini, lettuce, and other stuff (to be determined) on the other.

I am also trying to decide how much grass to get rid of. I like having a lawn occasionally – like when friends bring their dogs over and we play fetch. But most of the time it’s just sitting there. So we’ll see.

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More light in a room… when you don’t really care what it looks like

I have an art room/studio, and since I’ve moved in, I have made due with the light from the single bulb in the ceiling fan in the middle of the room + task lamps. It wasn’t really ideal, though, since whenever I left the room I had to go turn off several lamps, and since the work desks are at the outside of the room, I cast a shadow on whatever I was working on.

My cheap (ish… for a whole room light system) but not totally attractive solution was to buy the following:

  • 3 Ikea light cord sets. I live 9 hours away from any IKEA, but picked these light kits up when I went to Austin last.
  • 3 shades to go with them. I lost the ones I got at IKEA, so I bought these from amazon.
  • Bulbs. I wanted bright white light, so I got these daylight bulbs at amazon. I love them – they do make a slight buzzing noise, but I’m almost always listening to something in the studio.
  • I got a cheap light kit at Menards. Just a standard holds two bulbs deal. It was $4. It was like this one on amazon.
  • To plug the IKEA lamps into the fixture, I got two of these adaptors from a local hardware store. Like this one, but without the pull cord.
  • Finally, I got an umbrella to hide the big mess of cords. (The one I got is pretty huge, but there are a lot of cute cheap umbrellas on Amazon.)

Light solution in art room

To get the umbrella up, I sawed the post off below the catch, and used the little metal piece that fell out (I sawed around it) to fashion a hook that also holds the umbrella open. Then I just hung it right on the light fixture.

I used mostly stick up hooks to hold the lights kits and cords in place – plaster ceilings don’t like screw in hooks.

Here’s what it looked like before I hid the mess with an umbrella:

Mess of cords before umbrella

The total wattage of the lamps is less than the rating of two 60W bulbs the light fixture is rated for (thanks CFL’s!).

Now my room is nice and bright. Next step: getting it cleaned up.

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