Friday, May 29, 2015

Best Laid Plans...

Sooooo... the rains are finally slowing a bit here in Denver. On Monday the weather was good enough that CatMan and I took a long bike ride. We had to dodge a few thunderstorms and ford a few streams where the river had overflown its banks, but other than that a we emerged unscathed.

But just as we were pulling into our meet up/parting ways spot we noticed an ominous looking cloud off to the west. And just as I was about to hop on my bike to pedal home I got a flat tire. Oy!

Well, the two of us whipped that sucker off, changed it in record time, and I booked it home just as quickly as my little leggies would carry me.

It's a good thing I'm getting faster, because about 10 minutes after I got home, this happened:

Yup,,, that's hail. The stuff was coming down at an incredible rate almost horizontally. I had almost finished putting the hardware cloth on the "hail house" so I eagerly ran to the window to see how it had performed.

Let's just say the results were... um... less than what I was hoping for!

OY! I think it was just coming in at such an angle that the hail all went under the covered portion. Hmmm... clearly some design tweaks are in order!

Thankfully the ground has been so muddy that I hadn't really planted anything yet - the only plants under there were a few volunteer potatoes that I evidently didn't get fully harvested last year.

I did, however, have some spinach in another unprotected plot on the other side of the yard. I was soooo excited about it too, because usually we get such hot weather in the spring that it bolts long before it ever gets big enough to eat. I was looking forward to harvesting some this week. Guess not...


Anyhow, I've been meaning to build a cold frame for the greens for years so I can more easily winter them over, and I saved a panel from my old sliding glass door to use as a cover. I'm sorta thinking I'll step up my efforts, because I also have the screen from the old door that I can use to protect the greens from hail in the springtime. I think there's some saying about that... when life gives you hail, build a cold frame, or something like that!

At any rate, my groovy solution to my bike water bottle problem also hit a snag when I took the thing out on the road.

It was making a terrible clatter and we discovered that the vertical water bottle was actually banging against the frame of the bicycle. I thought this was just noisy and annoying, but CatMan told me that carbon fiber bikes can actually suffer serious damage from that sort of thing, so the vertical bottle had to be removed.

I may have to give up my beloved Klean Kanteen bottles and switch to a specially sized plastic one if I'm gonna make it work. I hate to do it, but I've been reading reviews about "Purist" water bottles that are coated with food grade silicone on the inside so they can't leach anything from the plastic. That may end up being my compromise.


I guess the lesson here is that life is always a work in progress...

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bikey Problems and Problem Solving

Well folks, the wet weather continues here in the Mile High city. Seriously, I think we've seen 2, count 'em TWO days in May without rain. Lordy! We are NOT used to this sort of thing here in arid Colorado.

I have to say the gray skies are a real bummer. But... we can't complain about the water - we need the moisture, so it's all good.

I have to admit though, that I'm starting to understand certain behaviors that previously baffled me like delaying spring plantings because the soil was muddy (I've never seen this level of mud in my yard before!) use of indoor lighting during the daytime, and frequent washing of bath towels - who knew that towels don't air dry completely in an hour or so when you have humidity near 90% all the time!

Anyhow, time on the bike has been limited. We've been able to get out and dodge the rain a few times, but portions of our beloved bike path are... well... let's just say not conducive to riding.

South Platte Bike path at Evans Avenue - taken May 17, 2015
This photo is from a ride last week - the river levels are actually higher now.

Here's the view of the swim beach at Chatfield reservoir taken on the same day... it's under there somewhere!

For perspective, this is what it's supposed to look like:

Soooo... when I haven't been riding, I've been working on solving a few bike related "issues."

First up, hydration. Those of you who read my A-Z posts in April might recall that I came up with a recipe for homemade electrolyte drink that is working pretty well. The only problem was that I still hadn't figured out a way to fit more than one bottle on my bicycle. For some reason, the little holes that you screw the bottle cage into on the diagonal "down tube" were just an inch or so too low for two bottle cages to fit - let along have room for a pump as well. Grrrrr...

How it's supposed to work
But, as I was trying to work the geometric puzzle to find a way, I realized that my beloved Klean Kanteen water bottle is actually slightly smaller around than the standard bottle. So... instead of trying to be frugal and use the plastic bottle that I already had as a second bottle, I went ahead and purchased an additional Klean Kanteen and voila! It all fits... just barely, but it fits! Woo Hoo!

So now I can bring along two 27 ounce bottles of water/electrolyte drink on each ride. It's not really necessary now since we've barely had temps out of the 50's this month. But this summer when the temps climb above 90, it will be really nice not to have to go looking for a source of water on every ride.

And then, we have the old food issue. Long time readers may recall that I suffer from a peculiar and not well understood medical condition called food dependent exercise induced anaphylaxis. Basically it's a severe allergic reaction that is triggered by the combination of eating something I'm allergic to and exercising. The tricky part is that the food causing the reaction might cause no reaction at all if I eat it and don't exercise afterwards. Sooooo... finding foods that are safe for me to eat during and before a long bike ride has been tricky.

I had been trying to get by eating a big meal about an hour before a ride, but about 3 hours into a long ride, I would just start to feel absolutely famished!

Since potatoes and eggs were some of the few foods on my "safe list" I experimented with bringing a hard boiled egg and a baked potato along. It was messy, but functional.

But... I've been slowly working on adding foods to my safe list, and can now eat oatmeal, milk, raisins and cashews before a ride. Woo Hoo! So it occurred to me that I could actually use those ingredients to create some sort of an oatmeal bar that I could bring along on the ride which would be much easier than trying to pack a potato for each ride.

I did a bit of research and landed on this recipe. I made an ultra simplified version using only oatmeal, milk, eggs, raisins, cashews and salt and I have to say they turned out downright edible! I made a big batch and froze them so I can just grab one on my way out the door.

Frozen Oatmeal Bar
Being able to eat something when I'm out on long rides has made a HUGE difference in my stamina and I am totally thrilled!

Anyhow, cross two problems off of my bike list. Now if we can just get Mother Nature to cooperate!

So tell me, how's the weather in your neck of the woods? What have y'all been up to lately?

Friday, May 15, 2015


Folks, I'm not entirely sure what's going on here, but the best I can figure it there must be some sort of plumbing deity, against whom I have unwittingly committed a grave and unpardonable offense.

Sooo... not long after I finished my last post I opened the cabinet under the kitchen sink an discovered a puddle of water. Noooooooo!

My first thought was that I hadn't tightened something up enough, but it turned out that the water wasn't coming from the newly installed faucet but from the drain pipes. Oy!

My best guess is that I must have bumped the plastic pipes one too many times in the course of doing my Gumby imitation to get to the faucet fittings. Sigh.

Anyhow, I took the pipes apart and re-tightened all of the plastic nuts, but no dice. Turned out one of them had its threads stripped and needed to be replaced. All in all, it wasn't that bad and I fixed the problem for less than $3.

But then...

Later that day I went downstairs to clean litter boxes and discovered to my horror that there was an inch of disgusting standing water in the laundry room sink. Ug!

I guess messing with the drain pipes must have knocked some gunk loose and created a clog. Problem was, the clog was in a fairly inaccessible place. I ended up having to dismantle the pipes to get the snake in, but once I did that the clog was cleared quickly. Except...

Within a few minutes the water was backing up in the laundry room floor. I suppose that's to be expected - I had pushed the clog further down the line but not far enough for it to clear.

Sooo... I got out my handy sewer rod and cleared the line out to the alley, and finally... I think it's all fixed.

I am hoping against hope that we're done now and that I can stop playing plumber... please...

Honestly, I have no idea what I did to offend the gods, but I want to officially ask for forgiveness!

I surrender! I give up! Uncle! Mea Culpa! Jeg gir meg! Me rindo! - That's all the languages I know, but please, oh please gods of the pipes, I humbly bow before thee and beg you to be merciful! I have offered a flesh sacrifice in the form of several skinned knuckles, and I promise to never, ever, EVER take indoor plumbing for granted again!

OK. I'm ready to be done now...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

When it Rains it Pours - or Sometimes Snows!

Well folks, I'm starting to recover from the A-Z blogging hangover...

I have to say, the past few weeks have been a case study in the inevitable fallout from taking the "ignore it and maybe it will go away" approach a few too many times.

First up - plumbing disasters.

My kitchen faucet was cheap to begin with, and after years of repairing the thing it had finally reached the point of no return and really needed to be replaced. I figured it would take me an afternoon... oh what an optimist I was!

A week later, I was on a first name basis with the plumbing guy down at the local hardware store, and I now know more than I ever wanted to about pipe fittings, wrenches and plumbing in general! Oh, the joys of living in a home with "vintage pipes."

I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say getting the old faucet out was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated. The situation was complicated by the fact that the sink did not have any water shut off valves, so the water to the whole house had to be shut off. Then when a pipe fitting broke things went from bad to worse.

But I persevered and I now have a brand spanking new kitchen faucet that actually works! I also installed shut-off valves so hopefully the next time something needs to be done on that faucet it will be much less of a hassle.

Words cannot express how wonderful it is to have a fully functioning kitchen faucet again. Seriously - the spigot swings easily from one sink compartment to the other, the sprayer functions, and best of all, there's no water leaking out of every crack and crevice!

And I was also quite glad that I make a practice of washing out glass bottles and filling them with water to use in the case of an emergency. Having the water shut off for a few days was much less traumatic than it might have been since I was prepared. Crazy lady to the rescue once again!

Of course in the middle of all this, I noticed that one of my car tires was dangerously low on air. Since I don't drive much I figured I just needed to top it off - which I did, but alas, in a few days it was low again. After a few days of beating a path to the air pump at the local filling station I decided to take it in - whereupon I learned that 10 year old tires really need to be replaced not fixed, even if they only have a few thousand miles on them.

Sooo... I now have a beautiful new set of tires on my car, as well as fresh oil in the engine which was also overdue.

Apparently my bike felt a bit left out though, because the next day I went to prepare for a ride and discovered a flat tire there too. Oy! Fortunately I had already purchased new bike tires since they were due to be changed, but somehow I hadn't anticipated having to do it in the middle of everything else. Oh well.. in for a penny, in for a pound!

Oh... and did I mention it's been raining here in Denver? Seriously, we've been setting records right and left, and some of the 500 year flood disasters of 2013 are already repeating themselves out on Colorado's eastern plains. My how time flies when you're having fun!

CatMan and I went for a ride today along the South Platte, and the river was higher than I've ever seen it. There were places that the bike path was under several feet of water, and we've got more rain in the forecast!

It also snowed a few days ago and temperatures got down into the 20's killing a bunch of tender plants. So, perhaps it was a good thing after all that I was so far behind on the garden!

Anyhoo.... that's the news from the funny farm. I'm sincerely hoping that all of your lives have been much less eventful than mine over the past few weeks! :-)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Reflections on A-Z Blogging

The folks over at the A-Z Blogging challenge have asked us all to post our reflections on the experience, so here goes.

The Good
  • I enjoyed the challenge of writing more frequently. It did help me to "get over it" in terms of feeling like every blog post must be a work of art.
  • I enjoyed getting to make some new blogging friends 

The Bad
  • Obviously, it was a bit tiring to both write every day and read so many new blogs. I didn't come anywhere close to reading 5 new blogs per day, and often felt like I wasn't really giving the posts I was reading adequate attention.
  • It was really hard to find blogs on the list that were of interest to me. I think they need a better system of categorizing - maybe each person who enters could add a list of their interests or something like that. Ideally you'd have a system where you could look up everybody with an interest in cats, or gardening or cooking or whatever - not sure how to do that technically without a database though.
The Ugly
  • The organizers asked us to turn off word validation for the duration of the challenge, which I did, but HOLY MOLY! I was overrun with spam. Won't be doin' that again!
  • Turns out April isn't the best month for me to take on a big time commitment - I fear my spring gardening stuff is WAY behind. Can't blame it all on the challenge, but it didn't help.

Over all I enjoyed the challenge of writing more frequently - but I have to say that I probably won't participate again. Just way too many rules for a rebel like me!

Part of my goal was to try to quell my perfectionist tendencies and make each post much less of a big deal. I think I did succeed in that, at least moderately.

If I'm honest though, another part of my motivation was to give myself something to focus on other than Princess being sick. I'm not entirely sure how emotionally healthy it is to distract yourself from feelings that you don't want to face... OK - I know it's not emotionally healthy, but neither is obsessing over every bite and breath your sick kitty takes.

For the record, Princess is hangin' in there, much to the surprise of my vet. We're working to slowly taper off the dosage of her diuretics, to see if having her blood pressure under control and backing off on the fluids will be enough to prevent her from going into congestive heart failure again. It's a bit nerve-racking, but she's eating like a horse and thoroughly enjoying the fact that her mommy is letting her eat as much junk food as she wants and "sleep" under the covers (well, she sleeps, I generally just doze when she's cuddling with me.)

At any rate, that's my take on the whole challenge!