Category - Home Sweet Home

Bear In the Backyard
Three Months
After the Fire
Cruel, Cruel Summer
I Survived
Wild Life
Deck Complete!
A Farewell to Deck


We have a dining room in our house, completely separate from the kitchen and the living room.  I love it!  We use it for dinner as often as possible, which is every day unless we are eating outside on the deck.  The only thing is that the dining room is pretty small (as they all seem to be in this area) and only has northern facing windows.  We have dark wood furniture in there.  It can be a pretty dark feeling room.

A few years ago I was a Longaberger consultant.  Sort of.  I signed up in Korea, where I didn’t have to make any quarterly sales minimums.  I got the consultant discount for myself without having any of the work!  At the time, my goal was to buy three sets of their dishware in red, white and blue.  I never got the white before we moved back to the States and my sweet little set up was over.

We used the red and blue Longaberger plates until the first time we had people over for an actual, grown-up, sit-down, dinner party.  I set the table with those dishes and the room looked so horribly dark and oppressive.  I knew I wanted something different, but I wasn’t sure what.

And I discovered Fiestaware!  I picked up some place settings from Kohl’s when they were on sale and I had a good coupon.  I got a few more place settings from my  mom for Christmas.  And then it was our turn to host the dinner party again and I grabbed the last place settings I needed.

Do you want to see my set table?

fiestaware table

The table linens are from Kohl’s, too.  They aren’t the best quality – the napkins aren’t completely square and two of the placemats are a few inches smaller than the others.  They came in a set, so I couldn’t choose. But I had a enough to set the smaller ones aside.  But doesn’t it look great?  Pumpkin Girl helped me fold the napkins and she set the table so that each place has a different color placemat, napkin, bowl and plate.

I love the way the table looks when it is set now, like it is time for a fiesta!

Bear In the Backyard

We are well used to the wildlife here by now.  Still, it is cause for excitement when a bear shows up in our backyard.  We haven’t actually seen *that*, but we know it has happened.  Our current bear friend actually frequents the creek that is behind our house.

This picture shows the top edge of our fence, to get a perspective of where the bear is in relationship to our house.

We’ve been watching this guy all summer.  He was particularly taken with a drain pipe that empties into the creek.  He sits on it, looking cute and thinking his bear thoughts.

Think, think, think. (Picture is a little fuzzy because it was taken through the window screen.)

We’ve seen him a couple of times a week for the last few months.

I’ve had my suspicions that he’s going to take up residence in there for his long winter’s nap.  Bears don’t really hibernate, did you know?  They have a “winter lethargy”.  (Me, I get a summer lethargy.)

I was right.  The children have been watching him tear up the dead grass on the creek bank and carry it back to his cave.  He’s got quite a cozy nest going there.

Here he is a few days ago, trying to decide if he needed just a little more cushioning.

How cool is that?

Three Months

It has been three months since the start of the Waldo Canyon Fire. The kids’s t-shirts say it all.

Community does not burn down.

I am so proud of our town. We’ve been working together to help the families who lost everything. Boo and his Boy Scout troop are collecting holiday items for the free “garage sale” for the families. Everything from decorations to roasting pans to wrapping paper! Air Force Academy cadets provided physical labor in helping to clear vegetation in the burnt neighborhoods. There is an active campaign to patronize the local businesses who had to close for a week or longer during the height of the tourist season.

Meanwhile, efforts have been made to mitigate future damage from flooding. Run-off from the burn scar will pose a real threat for the next few years. We took advantage of the free sandbags offered by the city, just in case the creek behind our house overflows its banks. Helicopters are once again flying over our house. This time they are dropping mulch before the snow comes, to make up for the lack of vegetation that previously prevented landslides.

I’ve said it before, but here it is again. I love my mountains! I’ve grown to love this community. This is our home now. Despite everything, I never want to leave.

After the Fire

Some thoughts…

That first morning after we returned, I went outside to look at the hill.  At first it didn’t look different, but then I noticed one patch of green.  Everything else was black.

I took the long way home from my errands on Monday.  As I turned the corner, that same hill came into view, but closer this time.  I gasped aloud because the burnt trees were much more clearly defined.  I went out of my way to drive to the Walgreens we always go to, just a couple of blocks from the first set of burnt houses.  I couldn’t see anything from where I was and I wasn’t brave enough to continue up the hill.  Turns out I was about 1/2 a block away from the first house.  I’d like to go take a look.  Just to see.

I’m overwhelmed at the wonderful community we live in. 32,000 people evacuated and there were only 24 incidents of looting.  We had a zero tolerance ban on fireworks for the 4th, and for the first time since we’ve lived here, no one set anything off in the park across the street from us.

Our church, being in the evacuation zone, was still closed last weekend.  We went to a neighboring church where the pastor had those us from our parish raise their hands.  He told us to mark our checks with the name of our church and he would make sure that our offerings would get to our own church.  We got a free pancake breakfast that morning, too.

Did you know that “America the Beautiful” was written after Katharine Lee Bates saw the view from Pikes Peak?  It is an amazing thing to be living right here, at the foot of those purple mountain majesties.  We love these mountains, no matter what.

The day before we evacuated, Boo came running up from the basement, into the kitchen.  “Do I smell burgers,” he asked hopefully.  “No honey, the mountain is on fire,” I told him.

It is a little disconcerting to be scrolling through my caller ID, looking for a number, and see “911 Event” in the list.  Twice.

Our neighborhood is filled with Thank You Firefighters posters.  My favorite one says, “Thank you, firefighters for saving our homes.  Thank you, friends and family for housing us.”  Well said.


Cruel, Cruel Summer

Record breaking temperatures. Very low humidity. Two years in a row of drought conditions. It is hot and dry here, so this was bound to happen.

We first saw the fire on Saturday, June 23. We were coming home and as soon as we turned toward the mountains we could see smoke. It was noon. We could tell that the fire was close to our house, but not dangerously close. We came home and turned on the TV and got what little news there was. My memory fails me here, but at some point we decided to be ready to evacuate. We talked to the children and they decided that what they wanted to save most was their stuffed animals. We packed those up, as well as all the summer clothes we had in our drawers.

We packed up the car, too. Scrapbooks, luggage, stuffed animals, litter box, cat food, important documents. We couldn’t find one of the cats. We continued to monitor the news and we discovered that our area was put into the mandatory evacuation zone. It took us a little while to finish loading up and in that time they made a correction and moved us into voluntary evacuation.

This is the fire as seen from our driveway at 2:30 PM, Saturday, June 23, 2012

We stayed packed up all weekend, just in case. We watched the news almost all day. On Sunday evening, my husband unpacked the cars.

Monday was uneventful.

Tuesday morning was uneventful.

Pumpkin Girl was at her ballet intensive all day Tuesday. At 2:00 PM the neighborhood to our immediate north was put into pre-evacuation status. For awhile we thought we were, too. A little investigation showed that the evacuation line was about 1/4 of a mile to the north. We decided to prepare anyway. Our plan was to do some laundry, repack the luggage, maybe load the cars again. I left to pick up Pumpkin Girl. While I was waiting for us, a friend in the pre-evac zone called me to tell me she could see flames coming down the mountain and that they were leaving. I called Phil at work and asked him to go home. A few minutes later, Pumpkin Girl’s class was over and I rushed her into the car. It was 4:30 PM.

As soon as we headed West and could see the mountain, we could see flames. It was ugly. The closer we got, the more we could see and I just kept saying, “oh dear God,” over and over. It is a miracle I made it home ok, because I was in a daze, trying not to freak out.

Driving down our street, we could see many of our neighbors loading their cars. Others were standing in the street, watching the flames come down the hill. This hill –

This hill was on fire when we left the house on June 26

Phil was already home and loading his car. The cats had been rounded up into Pumpkin Girl’s room. What happened after that is a blur. We gathered up last minute things, got the cats in their travel boxes, loaded up the children. I looked around the living room one more time, just in case. We got in the cars and left. I said goodbye to our house as I pulled away. It was just before 6 PM.

We encountered some traffic, but not a lot. We had already lined up a place to go – the home of a friend. We just drove and listened to the news. We heard that the firemen needed to fall back. We heard that the nursing home for retired nuns at our church needed help evacuating. We heard that behind us, the traffic was backing up. We reached our destination around 6:15. We waited.

Quite honestly, we weren’t sure we would ever see our home again. I couldn’t bear to watch the news. I felt helpless. I slept very poorly that night and was awake for good at 5 AM. The morning briefing gave us hope because the damage seemed to be confined to just a few subdivisions.

Over the next few days we watched the news and studied the perimeter maps. We could tell that the fire had not reached our immediate area, so we were cautiously optimistic. The pictures we saw of the neighborhoods burning showed a different style of house than those of our neighborhood. Soon, specific streets were named and they were not ones we knew.

Later, as I studied the maps more, I realized that I was familiar with the Mountain Shadows sub-division. Bip practiced soccer at the elementary school there last year. I remember sitting there, looking at the houses across the street. They have a nice view of Pikes Peak. It’s a nice little neighborhood. Most of those homes are gone now. So are the homes that lined the street we drove to get to practice. I remember one home with a giant slide going from the deck to the backyard. It always made me smile.

On Thursday a list of the effected streets was published. Our street was not on it. We relaxed for the first time.

Thursday morning brought a list of evacuations that were lifted. We were not on it. News that the fire had not grown was welcome news.

Friday morning came and went with no new evacuations being lifted. Late Friday afternoon came an announcement that a new briefing would occur at 8 PM to discuss the evacuations. We sat and watched. I tried to brace myself for another disappointment. The briefing was a bit awkward and disjointed and they never named our neighborhood specifically, but we could tell from the other street names that we could indeed go home.

So we packed up quickly – the scrapbooks, luggage, stuffed animals, litter box, cat food, and important documents, not to mention the cats in their travel boxes. We were home by 9:30 PM. I was practically in tears, that last mile up the hill to our home. A group of neighbors was standing outside, waving and cheering each car that drove by. I rolled down my window to wave back at them. After we unloaded the car we also stayed outside for a while, waving at the cars going by. I wanted to hug each and every one.

A very bad picture taken at night with my phone. But we are home.

Today is Saturday, June 30, 2012 and we woke up in our own beds. It is the third anniversary of the day we closed on our house. It is good to be home.


So there I was, driving home from the library.  I really wasn’t supposed to be on that road at that time of day.  I was on the way home from Pumpkin Girl’s physical therapy appointment and we stopped to pick up a book on hold at the library.  It was the last day they were going to hold it for us and I was already out and all, so we made a quick stop.

The drive home from the library goes through an older neighborhood than ours, a little more woodsy.  On this very same road we’ve actually had to stop and let a mama bear and her two cubs cross the street.  Seriously.  We’re totally blase about all the deer we see.  They are everywhere.  Walking down the street, in the Safeway parking lot, lounging in the shade of a neighbor’s house.  Deer – so last week.  But bears are exciting!  And fluffy and cute!  And oh so squeezable!   But only if you are in the safety of your car.  I reminded my children of that while they squealed over the bear cubs.

We see all sorts of fun things around here.  One time I was pulling into a parking lot and squealed, “Sees!”  Pumpkin Girl looked at me funny.  “Sees Candy! I love Sees Candy!  I can’t believe there’s one here now!”  Sees Candy, for those not in the know, is a California chocolate company and until fairly recently, you could only find their stores out West.  They were a big part of my childhood.  People give Sees Candy boxes for Christmas, housewarmings, birthdays, graduations, whenever.  Because giving chocolate is always appropriate.  And now there they were, right here in my new hometown, for my hedonistic eating pleasure.

So there I was, driving home from the library.  Not buying Sees Candies, not waiting for the bears to cross the street.  Just driving along. And then I spied…a milk can!  Just lying on the side of the road!  “Milk can!” I said.  Pumpkin Girl looked at me funny.  I pulled over and parked.  I jumped out of the car to retrieve my treasure and hauled it back to the car.  Yay for me!  It’s a little banged up on one side, probably from where it fell out of the truck?car? it was in.  But that’s the side I turned to the wall, like the bare spot in the Christmas tree.  Cool, huh?

The rope was on it when I found it!


I Survived

First, I just want to thank everyone who emailed, tweeted or otherwise contacted me yesterday to see how I was doing after the earthquake.

That was something else, wasn’t it?  I grew up in California and lived in San Francisco during the 7.1 quake there.  So minor tremblers don’t really make me take notice, but I wasn’t expecting one way out here!

At the time the quake hit, I was lying on my bed, nursing Pipsqueak.  The bed started to shake, but it felt like one of our cats getting out from up under what is essentially the bedspring.  But the shaking continued. Both cats, maybe?

Then I could feel the whole house swaying and I realized – We’re having an earthquake!

Now, having been raised in California, I am properly trained in earthquake procedures.  If you’re at school, you duck and cover under your desk.  (Coincidentally, this is the same technique to use in case of an atomic bomb.  That way the schools didn’t waste  time with conducting multiple safety drills.  One command of “Duck and Cover!” and we’d trained for multiple situations in just seconds.) When not in school, you shove everyone out of the way to stand in a doorway.  In this way, when the building collapsed, at least you’d have died standing.

The only problem this time was that Pipsqueak was sleeping and nursing and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to disturb him.  So I braved it out where I was.

I did not even bother waking up Phil or the children and the next morning they had no idea that anything unusual had happened.

Wait, what? You thought I was talking about the quake in Virginia that happened in the middle of the day? No-o-o, Colorado had its largest earthquake in over 40 years yesterday! It was all very exciting.  Rocks fell down!  On the highway! Tens of people talked about it on Twitter! We were all over the news until the Virginia quake hit, the little upstart.

So yes, I am fine, thanks for asking.

(Nobody actually asked at all.)

Wild Life

We had some excitement here last Saturday night.

A mama bear and her teenage cub got in to our trashcan, made a total mess and then broke down our gate.

A bear got into our trash.You totally didn’t expect that, did you? Yeah, me neither. We didn’t even find out until our neighbor rang our doorbell on Sunday morning. He heard the ruckus, looked out the window and saw the whole thing. We had forgotten to turn off the a/c and open the window, so we missed it. I’m glad we did. Our window is at the wrong angle to have seen the bears, so who knows what we would have done if we’d heard someone or something breaking down the gate.

Speaking of the gate – this was the same one that the deck people used while building our new deck. It may or may not have gotten whacked a couple of times by building material. It did get broken when a gust of wind caught it, back in June. My parents were visiting at the time, so my dad took it upon himself to fix the gate.

My dad is a great Fixer of Things. If you have a fix-it project, my dad is the one to call. He will do that job and do it right. Which is what he did with the gate. He took the time to hunt down the materials to repair the gate and repair it he did. We were grateful, because honestly, with 4 children at home we don’t always have time to address problems like that.

So, my dad fixed the gate and fixed it well. Alas, the bears broke it down.

Hi, dad!

Now the gate is propped up along the fence, because we’re classy like that.

And because bears will return to the scene of the crime, we had to move the trash cans in to the garage.

Did I mention it gets hot here in summer? Exactly. It’s a bit oderiferous in the garage now.

I’ve been online researching bear-proof trash can options. They are expensive. We could go with what looks like a regular trash can, but has some sort of child-lock lid thing. The only problem is that trash companies may not accept them because you can’t just dump them out, you’ve got to stop and undo the lid.

Another solution is a metal box thing that will hold the trashcans. Those are really expensive, but might be the only option.

So, who was it that had to move to the mountains?

Oh, right. That would be me.

A Farewell to Deck

When we bought our house we loooved the deck! It was definitely one of, if not THE, nicest decks in the neighborhood. It was Trex (or so we thought) which is so nice for bare feet and no maintenance, too. Oh yeah!

I particularly liked the two levels, it was like a dining room and a separate living room.

But before our first summer was over we noticed some cracking and bowing of the planks. Over the winter there was a visible difference in the size of the planks versus the size of the planks during the summer. We actually covered one of the broken planks with an inverted flower pot to keep the kids from tripping. Classy!

Well, it didn’t take long before we realized that our lovely deck needed to be repaired. While we got estimates and proposals we slowly pieced together the whole story.

The deck was not original to the house. The builder used a recycled, plastic planking that was inappropriate to the weather conditions in Colorado. The deck was replaced once, never paid for and the builder went out of business. The deck never had a final inspection and would actually not have passed if it had.

We moved from repair to replace rather rapidly. (Ogle that awesome alliteration!)

Work started on the new deck last week. When I went to take some “before” pictures, I could feel the steps leading from one level to the next sagging as I walked on them. Yikes!

Goodbye old deck!
(you can tell how bleached out the planks were – in the corner there used to be built-in benches)

Hello fancy, steel frame!

Giant Hole of Nothingness

So that’s the big news around here – we’re getting a fancy pants new deck. Every morning at 6:58, I hear car doors slam outside my house. At precisely 7:00, the hammers start hamming and the saws start sawing. There is work being done on the front porch, too, which involves cement drilling. You know all our neighbors are loving us about now.

More pictures to come later as the deck progresses…

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