Sunday, May 26, 2013

Moonlight Towers

Last night, Sarah Hayes and her daughters came over for dinner. We went to high school with Sarah, but I actually went to elementary school with her husband, Rob, and was in class with him every year, kindergarten through sixth grade. He had a migraine, however, so maybe we'll see him next time.

However, while Sarah was here, she told us about moonlight towers, which was something about which I'd never heard. They are unique in the present to Austin, Texas, and you can read about them here.

This sounded fascinating, so I looked them up and found a personalized Google map just for the moonlight towers. There are several very near the house, and when I looked at them on street view, I was shocked. I'd seen them before, but hadn't paid much attention to them because they look for all the world like cell towers. I couldn't believe that they were over one hundred years old.

On Google maps, the nearest tower to our home was said to be located here. If you look at this, click on "street view" then find the tower and scroll up to see how tall this sucker is.

This afternoon, I headed that way. Here are some sites I passed, for your viewing enjoyment. I love how, closer to campus, there are still cool old houses...

... that are often dwarfed by more modern high-occupancy housing.

However, when I got to 22nd and Nueces, I found that the tower had been dismantled down to just the base. I'm sure it is because of the building of this new residential tower. If you compare this to the Google street view, you can see that this used to be a parking lot, and one of the anchors was on the walk on the north side of the lot. I guess there's no room for it now.

I'm not a huge fan of this building, already, because when James and I were walking one afternoon, I looked up and something tiny fell off of the side of the building and into my eye. Then as I was telling James about it, a small piece of wood got dropped off of the construction platform and landed right behind us. Dangerous!

I remembered reading that there was also a tower at 12th and Rio Grande, one block west and ten blocks south. So I decided to go back down that way and see if it was still there. (I knew that there were two further south and east, but James and I already planned to go down there after dark to see them lit up.)

This tower plays music throughout the day and apparently plays classical music as well as Justin Bieber.

One thing we see a lot of around here is co-op student housing. The houses always have several things in common: First, the grounds look a lot like a bunch of college kids take care of them. Second, most of them have gardens out front. I love them! They're almost always old houses, and have lots of character. I posted a picture of one with a bike in a tree when I did our first 'hood tour.

Student co-op housing.

It's a jungle out there!

Local color

When I was at 17th and Rio Grande, five blocks away, I could see the light. Do you see it? It looks almost like a radio tower off in the distance.

Looking in another direction
 Here are some views as I approached it.

Each tower has three anchors with three anchor wires each.

These things were built in the late 19th Century!

In the picture below, you can get a grasp of how huge this system is. The tower itself is 165 feet tall. To the right of the picture, you can see a white pole, which is the eastern anchor. It is across the street and one house down from the tower itself.

Satisfied, I headed back home, eager to see these things lit up.

One of my favorite buildings around here. I love the old-school rocks. Now that there are sunflowers on the roof, I like it even better!

Another tower that we will visit later.

As dusk settled, the tree of us headed over to see two other moonlight towers.

I love this sign and I even love the building. There is a toilet seat mounted to the front of the building.
This tower is located at 9th and Guadalupe. Here, you can see the anchor system without trees obscuring it.

We love our skyline!
Although we didn't see that light lit up, we noticed the one at 15th and San Jacincto when we were several blocks away!

D and James, heading towards the light.

It dwarfs the street light.
This next picture is blurry, but I wanted to take a shot from the same spot, five blocks away, that I took the daytime shot. This is at Rio Grande and 17th, on our way to the light at Rio Grande and 12th.

Finally, I tried to get a picture of the Wells Fargo tower and the light at 15th and San Jacincto, but I had the same issue with stability (should've taken the monopod). To combat this, I put the timer on 2 seconds and tried to steady the camera on James' noggin. It turned out okay except that the wind blew and some of his hair got in the picture!

(The Wells Fargo tower is 70 feet taller than the moonlight tower, 17 stories. The tower is a half block closer.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Greatest Mother's Day So Far!

Yesterday morning, I woke up and got up early, as my back dictates. However, I didn't fix breakfast like I usually do. Yesterday, I showered and read the paper (The Onion, of course) and took my time getting ready.

Meanwhile, James and Daphne got up and got to work. They made me delicious cinnamon roll pancakes, but I had as much fun watching and listening to them work as I did eating the pancakes.

Daphne and I went to church, and when we got home, we were all still pretty stuffed from our decadent breakfast!

James and I played a game of Boggle, then we both settled in to read a while as Daphne played Minecraft and Skyped with her cousin and friends. I might have dozed off while I was reading. At least until Rudy ruined my nap by trying to snuggle with me, since part of his snuggling involves claws.

A bit after 2, James and I walked to the nearest P. Terry's at my request. He's not had their burgers yet, and we enjoyed a late lunch on their patio. I wish Daphne had come with us because they had a cool little sandbox, and my hope is that she's not too cool to enjoy that kind of thing.

Coming back, James mentioned frozen yogurt and I remembered that TCBY had a "moms get free yogurt" thing going, so we texted Daphne and had her meet us at a nearby landmark that was on both of our ways toward TCBY.

It was fun to see several generations of moms and daughters while we were there, plus we had some fun with optical illusions.

James and I had walked a little bit over 3.5 miles, and this feels so good, spinally-speaking.

When we got home, we all did our own things for a bit, then I had a Whataburger shop that I remembered 10 minutes before the dinner window closed, so Daphne and I ran out for that. Fortunately, we live close to *everything* and got there in time to do the shop.

I enjoyed getting to hang out with both my husband and my daughter separately and together yesterday. It was a fabulous Mother's Day, and I am so blessed.

By the way, in case you're wondering about the cone hats, here's a clue you won't find anywhere else but here!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Nuthaus: I'll Be Quirky

I love our house. It is offbeat and charming and located smack dab in the middle of everything. It has some amazing features, then it has some... well... let's go back in time a little bit.

When we were looking at this house for James to rent, we were told that it was built in the 1930s; it was advertised as being 1300 square feet. Long before he signed the lease, I looked it up in the tax records and found that it was actually built in 1922 and is 1008 square feet. Whatever. It also has a 134-square-foot screened-in porch in back and 180-square-foot covered porch in front. That, my friends, I also verified.

The Nuthaus is located on a lot with two other homes.

One of them is a two-story 688-square-foot one-bedroom dwelling that used to have no inside access between the top and bottom floors. In fact, when we looked at it, you had to access both floors from exterior doors. The kitchen and living area was upstairs and the bathroom and bedroom were on the bottom floor. They had a very compact spiral staircase lying down in the living room and before the tenant moved in, they cut a square access between the upper and bottom floors so that the entire interior can be breached without having to run outside. That house has a downstairs patio and an upstairs deck. It's very funky and cool. James said that if he hadn't been thinking towards family, he definitely would have rented it.

The third house, which was built in 1969 and is actually 1300 square feet (advertised as 1400), is the one we saw on Zillow and wanted to rent. We called the leasing agent and apparently a deposit had been put down on that house the day we contacted him. When we saw all three properties, initially, we were a little disappointed. The bigger house (which the leasing agent insisted was "too big") had a bonus "what the heck is this?" room that had a hardwood CEILING in it. It had closets in every room. The master bedroom was gigantic; there was this tiled area between where you'd sleep and the bathroom that would have been perfect for a recliner or two, and there was access from the yard to that room.

Since we have moved in, however, we've realized that this house is perfect for us. I like having the living and dining spaces in the same room. I like that the kitchen is open to both areas. James' office, which would have been a heat trap in the summer afternoons in the "big" house, is tucked away in a shady corner of the Nuthaus.

That said, this house was built in the 1920s, then used as a business most recently, and then remodeled to look nice but also apparently by people who believed in getting the job done a bit more than they believed in getting the job done with stellar quality, so we have some "quirks."

When James first moved in, the disposal wasn't wired in at all. They hooked it up, and since then my sister and I realized that one of the PVC pipes coming out of the disposal isn't connected by anything like threading or plumber's glue; it's just shoved into place. And it comes undone if you try to put something too tall under the sink. Did I mention that we learned this after we'd shoved a bunch of rancid meat and other assorted left-overs down the kitchen drain before I moved in? Oh, and the disposal is also wired to a light switch. It has to be open for the disposal to work. I mean, there's a switch to turn on the disposal, also. But the first switch has to be on in order to deliver electricity to the disposal before the secondary switch will work.

Speaking of electricity, we noticed early on that the stove, which is gas but has electricity for the timer, clock, oven temp settings, and ignitions, would turn off at seemingly random intervals, only to come back on later. When we reported it, they wondered if it were a bad fuse (yes, the electric box outside has fuses, not breakers). That seemed unlikely, as the oven would eventually turn back on and work fine. If I wanted to use the cooktop, this was no problem. I could light the burners with a match. However, the oven pilot is buried, and even if I could light it, I couldn't make the oven heat up. Later, when I was working over here, I realized that the outlet on the other side of the wall from the oven would also go off at the same time.

Eventually, James came up with a hypothesis and then dismissed it, but he was correct: The oven and outlet are wired to the same switch that is beside the front door and that controls the living room light. So, the living room light has to be on or else the oven and my "office" outlet won't work.

Fortunately, the living room light is on a remote control system that operates the light and the fan. This is also the case for James' office, and our two bedrooms. Unfortunately, James' light bulb is out and we don't have a 12-foot-ladder. Also unfortunately, when he first moved in, the sensors in the light/fan units were funky and the lights would just come on at what seemed to be random times to us, but might have been set off by someone unlocking their car door or opening a garage door remotely.

Actually, when we were helping James move in, I kept going into his (our) bedroom to unpack a box, and the light would be on. I'd turn it off, and when I went back in, it'd be back on. It was bright daylight, so I asked James, "Do you keep turning this light on?" he said no. Well, soon we saw it come on without anyone doing anything. It still did it for a bit when I moved in. By that time, Daphne's had stopped, and the living room one never did it, I don't think. But one warm night, I wanted to sleep with the fan on, but a couple of hours after we'd gone to sleep, I was roused by the light popping on in the middle of the night. Fortunately, this seems to have righted itself. Just in time for summer! (Although we've already experienced the high of 63 today and now the temperature is shooting down.)

During that remodeling, the "craftsmen" painted most of the windows shut. Although this isn't the best fire safety ever, it's just as well that we can't open them because the house has no screens. It's difficult to be upset about that, since I love the amount of light we get through those babies. Also, several of the windows are the original wavy glass! In fact, the window at the front of the house, closest to where I work, is. So is Aish's favorite "looking" window.

There is a newer set of windows in our bedroom, and today I cracked them open for the first time. Immediately, the cats (the naughty ones) tried to figure out how to cram their noggins out of the crack and make it to freedom.

During the renovation, the workers also appear to have replaced the kitchen window. It looks out to the screened in porch, which is in a fenced yard and which is also locked (for what that's worth), so this isn't a huge deal... it just made me laugh. Okay, understand that the kitchen has stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. If you don't remember, you can go back and take a home tour here right now.

So, with all of the efforts to make the kitchen seem "upscale," for whatever reason, they replaced the bottom glass pane with plexiglass and just caulked it in. Consequently, one of the naughtier cats realized that if she bangs on the window long enough, it will pop out of place. Great work, craftsmen!

Speaking of great work, the remodeling has some places where we just shake our heads. First of all, they obviously dropped the pedestal sink or it got scraped in transit. In the middle of the pedestal, there is a gouge... which they patched... with caulk. Yep, gummy caulk is a great patch for porcelain, right?

Also, when they were staining the hardwood floors, someone took one bare-footed step into the living room and maybe went back when he realized that the stain was still setting. There is the front part of a footprint permanently in the flooring just between the living and dining areas.

Now, if you were remodeling a house and you needed to hang a shower curtain, what might you do? I'm guessing you might find out how tall the standard shower curtain is, and then use that measurement to determine the height at which to hang the rod, right? That's what these guys did. Except that instead of measuring from the floor, they measured... from the top of the tub.

When James first moved in, every morning, when he'd shower, he'd end up with a puddle all over the floor. We finally bought an extra long liner to put on the inside, and it's too long. But at least it keeps the water inside the shower where it belongs.

This is a permanent rod, so we can't adjust it. It's also one of those hotel-style bowed rods, to give one more room in the shower. I appreciate that, because the window in the shower has an unnecessarily giant sill (I guess maybe there weren't showers in the 1920s, so that wouldn't interfere when one was bathing) that intrudes greatly when one is cleaning oneself. However, it makes for a claustrophobic experience when one is trying to use the other facilities, if you catch my drift.

Did I mention that the single outlet in the bathroom didn't work at all when we first moved in? We finally got someone out to replace the GFI and I could see that the green light was on, but the first time I tried to use the outlet, it didn't work again. The maintenance guy came out to look at it and asked if we had power out elsewhere. I told him I didn't think so, but he went to test the other rooms. We found out then that the bathroom outlet is connected to... guess... our bedroom light switch! So, we are fortunate that the light no longer comes on of its own accord; otherwise, I couldn't dry my hair while James was trying to sleep lest we risk the random flash waking him. (Actually, that's not very likely. James doesn't, you know, wake up.)

Another thing I almost forgot because management and maintenance finally got it squared away is the washer and dryer. The washer, during the spin cycle, would "walk." It didn't just rock a little bit. It shook like crazy, walked away from the wall, and tried to throw the dryer. This happened to James and it pulled the gas line out of the wall. They tried to fix it by putting wood pieces under it to balance it, and it happened again, this time throwing the soap off of the top of the dryer and I caught it before it threw the dryer again. They put more wood up under the washer. We took everything off of the dryer and tried it again, and it happened again. Finally, they had a technician come out and tweak something. We still don't store anything on top of the washer, and we set the washer to medium spin, and it still does make the dryer door open... because the dryer door doesn't lock (is that normal?), but the washing machine works now!

One kind of funny thing that isn't really about the house: James has these end tables that were a wedding present to his parents. They have their original finish and have scrapes and paint drops and water rings and all sorts of "character." I thought it might be fun to sand them and refinish them myself, just to spruce them up. But when we were shopping for a dining table, we saw so many pieces of furniture with purposefully aged looks and they were extremely expensive! I decided to keep the end table just the way that they are. We put them together in front of the couch and use them as a coffee table, though.

So, quirks and all, this house is perfect for us. We are happy, the cats are happy (like we care), and I almost never get into the car. We can walk to everything we need, even to the grocery store (though I only walk there when I need odds and ends; I can't transport a whole week's worth, though James has talked about getting me a cart), and I have only bought gas one time since I moved in on April 1. I still have more than 3/4 of a tank.

Team Dave's <3 the Nuthaus!