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cardboard mysteries solved

July 11, 2009 by eric

We had just finished ripping down the last of the cardboard that was mysteriously nailed all over the ceiling and walls in the garage, when a woman walking her dogs stopped at the front of the driveway.

Her name, we found out, was Martha, and she had lived in this house when she was growing up, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Her grandparents lived next door, and she still lives in the neighborhood a few blocks away.

Her father, it turned out, had put up the cardboard, so he could use the garage as a darkroom.  He had also put up the fiberglass awnings over the front and back doors and had built some of the fences.

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making maps

February 22, 2009 by eric

This has nothing to do with the house, but it’s what I’ve been up to this weekend.

Since 2006, the Flickr photo hosting service has let people identify where their pictures were taken if they want to, and in that time 13,000 people have provided locations for 675,000 pictures taken in the bay area.

It turns out that using the Flickr API, you can download a big list of where these pictures were taken, and if you plot all the points, what you get is a map of the places that people decided were interesting enough to visit, photograph, identify, and publish on the web.

Popular tourist areas of course stand out, but so do the coastlines, as do the commercial hearts of a lot of neighborhoods. I particularly like that if you zoom in, you can even clearly see the routes that ferries take to and from Alcatraz.

In spite of how rich a data set this is, there are still a lot of nearly empty areas on the map. It will be interesting to see if these fill in over the coming years as cameraphones with built-in GPS receivers become even more common.

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merry christmas!

December 24, 2008 by steph

to share a bit of our holiday cheer with you on this rainy (to which mom retorts with a chuckle, “i thought it wasn’t supposed to rain in california!”) christmas eve, here is a snapshot of our tree:


also, i received a lovely christmas surprise yesterday! a neighbor from the house in maryland that i grew up in (who moved away before my parents did, but always kept in touch with them) sent me a package containing three angel figurines that used to belong to my grandmother! according to her note, she and her late husband purchased them from a yard sale my parents & grandmother had years ago. my family is *very* into christmas decorations, if they hadn’t purged occasionally my parents would have needed a second house just for the tree ornaments! anyway, i grew up spending many merry christmas celebrations with these neighbors, who treated me like an additional granddaughter, and was delighted to see the angel trio again (though i remember the angels more from their home than from my grandmother’s). here’s a close-up of one of the angels on our mantle:


from that brown house to your house…

merry christmas!!! 

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ready or not?

December 19, 2008 by steph

last month when the ceiling lights shorted out we played quite a bit of phone tag with the electrician who rewired the house. because of the timing, it was much easier to “borrow” the contractor who was working on a friend’s attic renovation than to wait for our electrician. however, the electrician did tell us he would be coming this month to finish out his original contract with us by running power to the garage (and hopefully fixing our doorbell).

to get ready for this, we took some time a few weekends ago to clean out and organize the contents of the garage so that it’s no longer an obstacle course to move around in there. then we (well, mostly eric…since i had a sore throat and started feeling feverish) began removing one wall of the cardboard-as-wall-paneling:

see that back wall? at first glance you might think that is sheetrock (the board propped up against the wall *is* sheetrock)…alas, the material nailed to the wall is cardboard…multiple layers of (in some cases water-damaged) cardboard…on all the walls and the underside of the roof.

well, now it’s only on 2 1/2 walls and part of the roof…it got dark too early to finish the job, but eric got the parts removed where the electrical work may eventually be done…we, of course, haven’t heard from the electrician since we cleaned up the garage.


on a brighter and more festive note, we got our christmas tree last weekend and a few nights ago elaine came over to help decorate:

the lady’s got balls! unfortunately, i had the automatic flash setting improperly set on the camera and all the tree-trimming photos are blurry (this was the best one). the tree, however, looks lovely so i’ll have to take some better photos…

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December 18, 2008 by steph

thanksgiving table 1

the first table


thanksgiving turkey

erica v. the bird

we like it when guests match the appliances…

thanksgiving table 2

the second table has the most wonderful cranberry sauce ever

cake & pie — oh my!

many thanks to erica & brian (the photographer), eric’s parents & brother, brian’s grandparents & cousin, my mother, christia & her eric, and elaine for making eric’s and my first thatbrownhouse thanksgiving such a warm and memorable occasion!

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some actual news

November 22, 2008 by eric

It’s been a long time since we had any actual news, but here comes a bunch all at once.

We had decided to bite the bullet and actually have the stove repaired so we could have a working oven. The stove guy came out again, looked at it some more, and decided that in fact to fix it they would have to haul it back to their shop and spend at least a couple of weeks ordering parts and doing work on it before they could bring it back and reinstall it. We thought about the time, money, and inconvenience and decided maybe we ought to just buy a new stove instead. And so on Friday it was out with the old:

stove swap - goodbye old stove by that brown house

and in with the new:

stove swap - hello new stove by that brown house

It doesn’t have the charming style of the old stove, but it does have the great advantage of actually working. And after the ordeal of trying to get the old stove out the door, it seems in retrospect like it was good to have a plan that didn’t involve trying to get it back in again.

Speaking of things actually working, Steph came home one evening to find that none of the ceiling lights worked. Fortunately all the outlets still did, so it wasn’t too bad waiting a few days until an electrician could look into it. After a bunch of investigation, it turned out that one of the wires for the ceiling light in the front bedroom had gone bad and was causing a short.  With a new wire, it’s all working again.

Meanwhile, the kitchen faucet had developed the alarming habit of squirting water on the wall and window above it every time it was turned on. This was something we were actually able to fix ourselves, fortunately. We took it apart, took out the rotten remains of the rubber O-rings, and replaced them with nice new ones. It still is a little leaky around the edges, but no longer causing mass havoc.

And on the cat front, Hobbes the neighbor cat had started following the example of our cats and jumping in our window on a regular basis. He’s a nice cat, but he doesn’t live here. So we shopped around and got a cat door to go in the window, thinking that we could set it so our cats could go out when they wanted to but Hobbes couldn’t come in.

Cat door

But the cats haven’t figured out how to use it! They will sit near it and meow until someone comes and opens it for them instead of figuring out how to do it themselves. Hobbes, meanwhile, does understand how to work it, so if it’s set to allow passage both directions, he still comes in. Sigh.

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a short post about our lack of accomplishment

October 1, 2008 by steph

i’d love to be able to gush that the reason we haven’t accomplished any house projects is because we’ve been making fabulous headway toward planning the perfect (memorable!  meaningful! pretty!  tasty! within our budget!) wedding, but i can’t.  we are discouraged.  so far our wedding story consists only of drama and disappointment.  we have no venue.  we have no date.  what we do have is plenty of guilt disguised as my mother who has been repeatedly bemoaning her failure as a parent due to our decision not be married in the episcopal church.

on the home front, several folks have requested more photos of “finished” projects and rooms, so i’ll try to do an odds and ends post with photos this weekend.

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the following conversation could have happened:

August 21, 2008 by steph

steph (standing amidst the post-party dirty dishes): do you realize that we got the house (with the exception of the “office”) all cleaned up and presentable, made a mountain of food, strung little white lights outside, and then had almost 50 people over and didn’t take a single picture?

eric: we were having too much fun.

steph: but i promised photos to the people who read the blog!

eric: how about some gratuitous cat photos? the one of entropy curled up among your mom’s photographs is cute…

so, last night i took more pictures of the cats:

neo in the sink

neo was in the bathroom sink and entropy was next to the orchid, but neither seemed overly keen to have his picture taken…

entropy & orchid

meanwhile, eric was engulfed in computers:

mac attack!

isn’t he cute?

eric smiling

so, we think the party was a success. we got to see some folks we hadn’t seen in awhile, including some friends who were visiting from portland, eat a decadent birthday cake prepared by christia, and *big grin* announce our engagement without usurping somebody else’s party to do so! yup, we’re getting married! squeeee! it’s been a very busy crazy year for us, so it may take us some time to decide when, where and how we want to “make it official” but we’re definitely going to host a celebration…and we’ll probably even blog about the preparations!

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yes, yes, we know…

August 1, 2008 by steph

that you are tired of visiting us only to keep seeing the ants in our cupboard…and we do want you to keep visiting us…but we are wholly unmotivated to finish unpacking, let alone start another house project (or finish the ones we’ve managed to forget that we are in the middle of).

therefore, we obviously need to throw a party.  on august 16th.  if you would like to come , but did not get an invitation, you can e-mail us at thatbrownhouse at yahoo dot com to request the details.  yes, yes, we will take some new photos before/during/after.  in the meantime we should probably shuffle around the furniture a few more times, grumble about having too much stuff, put the doors back on the cabinets, etc.

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ant, ant, ant, can’t deal with any more ants.

July 11, 2008 by steph

we are overrun with ants (but not the fun kind that tell you all the family gossip) and it’s making our whole household cranky…especially eric, who is typically very even-tempered.  they are coming in through joint between the window header and the wall in the dining room, then tracing their way across the dining room wall, through the china cabinet, across the kitchen wall and counter and then either behind the stove or into the sink.  in the sink they are then disappearing into a groutless tile grout joint.  gah!

ants in the china

we sprayed cedar oil all over the place last night, killing scores of them, but i think they must have a nest in the walls or something.  gah!  gah!  gah!

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