Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MomWatch 2012: ...and a good time was had by all!

A mom-approved dress at Nordstrom's in Cherry Creek.

Mom left earlier today after a nice morning together, which included a wonderful breakfast at Racine's (awfully quiet at 9:30 am, but I guess Denver's movers and shakers had already paid their mimosa tabs and left by then). We had a great week together, which was as always too short. The closet is done, and oh yes there will be posts and photos about the process. Mom was a real trooper for the whole week, from demoing the old shelving to finishing the new shelving. It was an amazing job; Mom was done in less than a week with a task that I clearly couldn't manage to accomplish in the past almost-three years. Well done, Mom!

We also managed to spend some time at the spa and wandering around Cherry Creek Mall, heckling the high fashion in Nordstrom's (as well as enjoying some of the handmade St. John dresses and jackets) and lusting over some YSL and Louboutin shoes at Saks. Speaking of Yves Saint Laurent, we saw his retrospective at the Denver Art Museum on its only U.S. stop. Every evening was spent trying new dishes and fantastic margaritas and various Rieslings at our favorite restaurants in Denver, and days were spent making messes and fixing shelving and snuggling my unhelpful kittehs, who appreciated the chance to go outside on the balcony in the unseasonably warm Denver weather. I appreciated it all the more, since I had three big presentations during part of the week she was here, and I was more than useless while she worked. I stumbled to my presentations in the mornings, to work in the afternoons, and then home to find that Mom had cleaned the kitchen in between putting up wood furring strips in the closet and spackling over chunks of fallen-away plaster in the closet.

It was indeed a wonderful week, and always too short a visit.

Monday, March 19, 2012

MomWatch 2012: The kittehs suspect nuffin

My amazing and hilarious mom is coming to visit this week. She flies in late Tuesday night and back out the next Wednesday midday. I always love having Mom visit, as she's fun, funny, and great company. Further making this visit interesting is that Guy is going to be out of town for two weeks straight, working on his big-ass project back east. I'm sure he's glad to be out of the house while Mom and I goober it up in here.

While I always enjoy having Mom here for the company, I usually have some ulterior motive for buying the plane ticket. usually it's just wanting her to help me with a few plants or to come sew a few garments for me. This time, though, it's construction. Three years ago, Guy built a sound wall in our bedroom to insulate us from the bedroom in the adjacent condo unit. Around that same time, Guy bought me a modular closet unit similar to those found at Container Store (relax, I actually asked for this unit for Christmas). For the past three-plus years, we've had my closet units leaned up against a wall in the hall, and we've stared at unfinished drywall in our bedroom. It's said that the cobbler's children have no shoes. I would add that the architect's house has no paint and shitty shelving.

So, Mom's coming out to help me knock some existing shelves out of the closet and then install the new shelving/rod system and paint the bedroom sound wall and my closet. Some of this she'll have to do when I'm at work, and some of this I'll be able to help her with. (The construction hours for our condo building are 8-4 on weekdays only, so anything involving drill bits and circular saws has to be done while I'm at work.) Further complicating this project is that it just happens to be coinciding with three huge presentations I'm having to make in the middle of the week, so I can't be home to help. Mom and I will have to work out what she can get done while I'm gone and what I can help with.

Meanwhile, the kittehs suspect nuffin. Hazel is curled up on the sofa on a fleece Hello Kitty blanket, and Gracie is scampering around like a goofball. I'm sure in between construction, sewing, and margarita/white wine sessions with Mom, there will be snuggling of kittehs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Call Rolling Stone: we're getting the band back together

Recently, Design Associates rehired my good friend Kellye to help out on all the healthcare work we have coming in. Kellye, as very-longtime WAD readers might recall, was (and is) a solid, licensed architect with a sharp eye for detail, an unflappable professionalism, and a wit so sharp that I have to remind him not to run with it or he'll put his eye out. Kellye is one of those rare people who is both actually good at his job and can make me laugh out loud. He'll be a good addition back to the office.

A few folks have been rehired in the past few months at DA, and we've added some new faces as well. For better or worse, the recession forced/allowed DA to shed some folks that weren't that good. A former coworker of mine has tried to get back in at DA a few times over the past year, but when she heard that only Howie and Bosley were hiring recently, it turned her off from re-re-reapplying--they were the ones she was working for when she was laid off three years ago, and she's had enough of them. Funny enough, when I asked Bosley about bringing back people who had been laid off, he specifically mentioned that former coworker as someone he wouldn't rehire. Guess that worked out nicely for everyone, then.

Adding to the fun of bringing Kellye back is that I'm finally going to be moving to a new desk this week after spending about six years at the same desk. I'm annoyed at moving, but at least it gave me the chance to clean my desk, and no one forced me to move while I was working on three deadlines at a time. My new desk will be next to Elliot (who was brought back several months ago) and over the wall from Kellye, who's working with Elliot right now, and Intern Tiffany, who will be working with me on a lot of master planning and concept design projects. So I'll be moving away from Intern Kimmy, whom I adore, and Ingrid and Norman, who have always been great colleagues with a good sense of humor, but I'll be moving closer to people that I hold in high regard (both personally and professionally). I also realized last week that I'll be moving away from the package pickup area, which means people will hopefully stop interrupting me to say hi just because they've come to pick up a package and were in the neighborhood. Maybe I'll actually get more done for once.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: Scotty's Castle, Death Valley National Park, CA

While Guy and I were in Vegas, we did an overnight trip to Death Valley again. (We went last year, but we didn't get to spend a lot of time there.) We managed to get pretty far into the park this time, and we got to tour Scotty's Castle, which was actually owned by railroad magnate Albert Johnson and his wife, Bessie. Walter Scott, known as Death Valley Scotty, was something of a shyster and a showman who convinced Johnson to invest in a gold mine in Death Valley that didn't actually exist. Even after Johnson discovered the truth, he stayed good friends with Scotty because he was so entertained by Scotty's tall tales.

In the foreground, there's an unfinished swimming pool at Scotty's Castle. Johnson got in a fight with the U.S. government regarding his property--apparently, the survey that showed the property he'd purchased for his Death Valley home was done incorrectly, and the structures you see above weren't located on the land he bought. He stopped working on the house while he was in litigation. Not long after he won the suit, his beloved wife Bessie died, so he quit spending time at the house and eventually sold it back to the U.S. to be part of the Death Valley National Park. Hence, some of the buildings and the pool are just cast-in-place concrete with no beautiful tiles, and the pool is full of sand and weeds.

Johnson and his wife were very religious and didn't want to glorify themselves with their house. Hence, they named it "Death Valley Ranch" instead of "Johnson Ranch." Because they hadn't named it, Death Valley Scotty clamined the summer home as his "castle" to the paparazzi on the West Coast. Hence, "Scotty's Castle."

Even for being built in the early 1930s, the house had a lot of modern conveniences. Johnson owned a railroad (inherited from his dad, who died in a huge train wreck in which Johnson himself was terribly injured), but he was trained as an engineer. He channeled water from a spring a mile away and ran it through a series of smaller and smaller pipes, which provided the "castle" with pressurized indoor plumbing and water to run small turbines for electricity with which to light the house. A mosaic tile waterfall in the great room (pictured above) provided evaporative cooling in the house.

The music room (shown above) includes a complete self-playing organ, like the kind that played during a silent movie. The Johnsons could push a button and play any pre-programmed song as if a small orchestra was in the room. (The organ even has a glockenspiel in it.) Scotty's Castle has an organ concert once a year to raise money to pay the organ-repair-tuner-person to come out once or twice a year to keep it playing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

App-etite for distraction

OCD runs in my family, but we all manifest it differently. I indulge my obsessive habits through record-keeping in such a way that starts out as admirable and then ends up making me look like John Forbes Nash meets Adrian Monk. Example: I once read that a great way to find out where all your money goes is to write down every single penny that goes in and out and to track it based on what you spend it on: e.g., food isn't just food, but there's dining out-food and grocery store-food and snack-food. When you start to track money so specifically, you'll a) become more aware of where your money goes and how and where you can curb spending, and b) think twice about spending money, knowing that you'll have to write it down on the list. Most people will do this for a few months at a time until they get things under control right?

I did it for eight years straight.

It started out as a way to track my spending and became one more thing that I "had" to do. I finally stopped when I realized that it no longer made me conscious of my spending, which was the original purpose in tracking it in the first place. I had finally attained the spending and saving habits that I wanted--I was conscious of what I spent, and Guy and I had gotten our expenses down as cheaply as possible while still enjoying life. So, I finally put that little Moleskine notebook on a shelf to let it moulder in peace.

Ah, but now I have a smartphone, with which I can do dumb things. But this time, The Precious isn't about tracking money, but rather calories and activity. When I visited the exercise physiologist at the Canyon Ranch Spa at the Venetian, as I do every year in Vegas (and for which I am good-naturedly abused by Scarlett and Guy), I realized in talking with her that my usual habits of weekly nutritional choices and exercises weren't cutting it anymore for my now 36-year-old physique. It was time to refocus and rethink how I work out and how and what I eat. (As we age, it turns out, diet becomes more and more important. Sonofabitch, there goes my nightly cookie habit.) The exercise physiologist turned me onto an app called Lose It!, which has a bunch of preprogrammed foods (regular, name brand from the supermarket, and even restaurant) and exercises (run-of-the-mill and odd, including curling) that you can choose from to see if you're eating well and working out enough to achieve whatever goal you set up (gain, lose, or maintain weight). You can even program in foods, so if the app doesn't have your kind of soda (Izze) or canned beans (Kuner's Black Beans, no salt added), you can plug them in.

I've been using this for a week, and it's been eye-opening. First of all, I didn't realize how many calories that even healthy-ass me has been drinking. Five tablespoons of flavored Coffee Mate creamer have 175 calories and barely lightens up my coffee the way a half-cup of 2% milk will at only 61 calories. I learned that my favorite Chipotle concoction (chicken tacos, hot salsa, cheese/lettuce/sour cream) is a little over 600 calories (which are negative calories if you get food poisoning/stomach flu and barf them up, see Monday's post). I also learned that Kitty's and my favorite chicken tortilla soup recipe is only 264 calories per bowl (based on eight bowls per Crock Pot, which is what Guy and I usually get out of it), but it's got about 1,000mg sodium per serving (use low-sodium taco seasoning, Kitty!). This app has made it easier for me to actually maintain a food diary, the way nutritionists have been begging Americans to do for years--it already has a lot of the nutritional info for many foods programmed in, so you can just input something and know that you'll have some accuracy in your calorie intake estimates, which is what I've been wanting.

This app makes me keep my phone out on my desk, which is something I always swore I wouldn't do with a phone. I like having a cell phone for my convenience, not other people's convenience. I've had acquaintances give me shit for not picking up my phone or even having it on when they call, but me having a cell phone is not so they can reach me, but rather so I can reach them when I choose to do so. It's a phone, not a leash, or even a shock collar. But having said that, I like having my phone nearby so I can input in what I've done (walking? yoga?) or eaten (Hershey's Kisses? pork chop?) and see what effect my choices have on my goals. So, yes, it feeds into my particular flavor of OCD. We'll see how long this lasts.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: Just as I got back, I ran out of gas

Guy and I had a wonderful time in Vegas. We rented a convertible and promptly got forehead sunburns driving around Death Valley, where we toured Scotty's Castle and the Ubehebe Crater. We spent a lovely night at Scarlett's and met The Cowboy, of whom we approve. (Not that it matters--Scarlett will do what Scarlett will do, but we thought he was an excellent, happenin' dude who is the yin to her yang, the boot to her spur...or whatever equestrian metaphor works best here.) We had a great time at the various shows we saw on the Strip (Absinthe was FANTASTIC, and Elaine Boosler is still funny after 20+ years on the stage), and the food was glorious.

We got back to Denver, and Guy had to immediately turn around and fly to a meeting on the East Coast for two days. Howie and Bosley were both out of the office most of the week, so I spent the week doing quiet catch-up work, which was sorely needed. It was a great week, and I was ready to meet with Howie and Bosley on Friday to get back into the swing of things, when--


Someone short and pesky awoke at 4am with either food poisoning (from her beloved Chipotle!) or a 24-hour stomach bug/flu/crud. I wasn't able to keep water down until 11am. I mean, heaves so bad that I was thinking Okay, my stomach is definitely empty, there can't be anything left and then another volume of fluid would come out, and I'd yell in my head Where the hell did you find that at? What, were you saving it? It left me absolutely spent to the point that on Friday, I literally only had three saltines and a bowl of chicken noodle soup at 6pm. I ate some bland stuff on Saturday and did nothing. I mean, nothing. Well, I worked on some writing on my laptop for a couple of hours, but that was it. Nothing. I slept a lot and didn't drink enough water, but that was it.

I lay there on the futon, looking at Guy, pitifully. He got up from the computer and came over and spooned me, saying, "I think I need a nap."
"I think you do too," said I. "I'll take one with you."
We were quiet for a bit as college basketball ran quietly on the TV. "Guy?"
"Is this what every Saturday is like for you? Just doing nothing?"
"Yeah. Feels good, doesn't it?
"Yeah, it does."