Monday, March 30, 2009

A much needed vacation (Part 1)

Last week for spring break we took a much needed vacation to London and Paris. The timing wasn't ideal for great weather but the tickets were free, so off we went. It was good to take a break out of email and phone contact.
Monkeying around with the scales at the airport.
Some coffee to help with jetlag. The British are great, breakfast consists of chocolate muffins or baked beans and grilled tomatoes. They make up for breakfast with beer, mmm.It was sunny when we arrived but still in the 40's.
The flowers make it look warmer than it actually was.
Buckingham palace. The G20 meeting is in London this week so the queen was out. The hallway of our very mod hotel. The seating area in the lobby was large chess pieces and giant gold teeth.
The room had mood lighting. The desk top lit up too.
And green
Sam enjoying a few minutes of sunshine.
Piccadilly Circus
I don't know if I should be happy or sad. The bakery at Harrods is fantastic, and they put in a Krispy Kreme.
Rainy weather.
"Modern art" at the Tate modern museum.
Sam trying it too.
I don't get it. Those beds were an exhibit too.
Big Ben at night.
The Chihuly at the V+A museum.
Yeah, I was there. Since it was cold and rainy we only took a few pictures and neither of us seemed to be in the picture mood after getting soaked a couple times. The millennium bridge looking towards St. Paul's.
The tower bridge.
London city hall, very cool. This is currently the most green building in London. It is an offset egg to provide shade to lower floors.
Tower bridge again. We went to see the crown jewels at the tower.Sam sleeping at 200 mph on the bullet train to Paris.
Chuck running at an incredible rate of speed.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Whistle While You Work

Even if we hadn't accomplished anything this weekend, it would still be better than last weekend's fiasco. The fact that we slept in and still accomplished a lot made this weekend that much better. I started painting the other 3 walls in the master bedroom while John and the other menfolk on the circle had a grass-trimming party fueled by beer, BBQ, and the smell of corned beef and cabbage.

I spent half the day with my head tipped upside down repainting the ceiling. Painting white on white is just not very gratifying. But it does look crisp and I would have hated to have had to go back and do it after the walls were finished. The carpeting in the bedroom is trashed. Good thing it is being replaced. Here is what the two wall colors look like next to each other.

While I was having fun sniffing fumes, John and the boys went to work. They cut back every one's grasses, cleaned out brush piles, and helped us trim back the jungle in our back yard. They also helped us relocated several of the large grasses that were encroaching on the front door and back patio. The whole yard got a haircut.

The trailer is a testament to how much work was done. With the nice weather and plenty of beer, I think it was time well-spent. Saturday night, we all went over to one of the neighbors' for corned beef, cabbage, and Irish beer. Everyone was pretty exhausted, and after the most wonderful chocolate Guiness cake, we all called it a night pretty early.

This morning John left for Texas, so I started painting the graphic going on the blue feature wall in the master bedroom. Blame it on David Bromstead. I'm a huge fan of Color Splash and I thought this was a great idea. I started to sketch it in with a pencil, but I gave that up quick. I decided to free hand it instead. John wasn't around, so I figured if I screwed it up I had a few days to paint over it.

I had a ton of fun doing this. I've never painted anything like this where I needed a step ladder. I put the main branches on first with a thin brush. Then I went back and filled in more branches and the leaves.

Then I took a medium sized brush and filled in all the leaves. So far, I was pretty impressed with myself. No major screw ups and I didn't spill any paint. Portland really wanted to help, but decided a nap in the sunshine was more appealing after getting spanked for trying to rub on the open paint can. I took a few breaks to water the grasses, paint one of my drawers to go in the closet, take a 30 min nap, and squeeze in a run. All in all, it was a very productive weekend.

Now I'm still in the process of taking the small brush and filling in all the details and refining all of the lines. The main branch will be thicker, so I'll probably have to get out one more brush for that as well. Once the brown is done, there is a smaller plant that will go on top in silver. It's evolving as I go. Here is part of the detail that is completely finished.
I'm hoping to get the mural finished this week before vacation. After we're back we'll be able to install the closest and paint the trim in master. Then we're pulling out all the trim in the house and painting the whole thing! We're getting so close, I can almost feel the clean carpet under my toes!

Of course, no weekend would be complete without a monkey pile.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Adventures of Bad Luck Chuck and his Two Sidekicks

Hello! I am Bad Luck Chuck and I am the newest resident of Roe Circle. This weekend, I accompanied two baboons on a trip to IKEA, the most wonderful place on earth. Here is our journey. If you don't think this first picture is funny by the end of our trip, then you have no sense of irony.

The plan was to leave Friday after the baboons came home and drive to Davenport and spend the night. Then we were going to be at IKEA first thing in the morning, shop, and hit the road to make it back to the tree house before 8pm.
Hey, it was a long trip and I had to take a leak.

We made it to Davenport and stayed at the Comfort Inn. I slept in the king size bed and let the other two fend for themselves.

After a quick shower and some coffee, we were back on the road!

We finally made it to IKEA!!

Here I am with the big guy, checking out chairs. I was thinking more of a hammock style, but I guess this one was OK too.

We managed to get in and find everything in less than 2 hours! (Almost) Everything they wanted was in stock and we were herded into the check out area.

We loaded up the truck and got everything wrapped up. It was sprinkling on and off, but they said as long as we were moving, everything would be fine.
We got on the road and outside of Chicago stopped for food. I had a banana split. We noticed the GPS was taking us south and we figured we were going through St. Louis. We were making good time when we realized we were kind of out in the middle of nowhere. But the GPS knows best, right?
We were about 40 miles from the MO border when...

all of the in-dash warning lights flashed and the battery light stayed on. I heard something about an alternator. But we were in the middle of nowhere and kept driving. Not long after we crossed into MO, the wipers died, the clock and lights went out, and all of the gauges fell to 0. We coasted into a town called Monroe City and landed in a Hardee's parking lot. It was a little before 6, but this place was a geographical oddity. Everything but the farm supply store was closed and there were no mechanics in town until Monday at 7.

We were forced to stay at the "nicest hotel in Monroe City" over night. The big one bought a battery charger and the little one pouted in front of the TV and drank beer.
Now I don't stay in hotels that often, but this one was bad. The key was an actual key, it smelled like smoke, there was no paper, phonebook, bible, alarm clock, or blow dryer. The clerk was sympathetic and offered to pick us up food though.
In the middle of the night it rained and shorted out the charger. But the extension cord worked well.

We decided to limp out of town by whatever means necessary, which meant we drove about 30 miles, found a gas station and recharged the battery.
The second time, we only made it 20 miles and coasted into a Walgreens parking lot with no lights, blinkers, or anything. We took the GPS off the charger so we weren't drawing any more from the battery than we had too. But it was dark with the rain and the headlights kept coming on. The big guy wasn't sure which fuse it was on, so the lights sucked what little juice the battery had.

At the Walgreens in Moberly, a nice lady named Holli let us plug into the inside outlet and told us if you put in the E-brake one click, the lights will go off. That should help. We figured out there was an O'Reilly's open so we went there to see if they could help.
Before we left, the little one bought some stuff. Something about forgetting a toothbrush and wanting clean underwear. I prefer just to go without.

At the O'Reilly's they ran some test and it was the alternator. Big surprise. I was looking for banana-scented air freshener, but I was disappointed. No mechanics on duty in this town either. But apparently, there was some guy named Homer in Columbia that could help. That was only another 30 miles away. We charged again and hoped for the best.

Before we made it to Homer, the GPS died. Now all we had were phones. We didn't make it to Homer's just yet. We had to coast into another gas station for one last charge, less than 5 miles from Homer's place. At this point, we had been travelling for over 6 hours and made it about 90 miles.

We finally made it! And Homer had located a rebuilt alternator. He could get us fixed up in a matter of hours.

Homer was my kind of monkey.

It took a little bit, but we eventually got back on the road.

As we got on I-70 and back into civilization, the clouds seemed to part. I have never been so happy to be on I-70 and see the signed for the adult superstores.

Once we were back, everything was unloaded and unpacked. Since we spent the night and most of Sunday in the rain, the boxes were all soaked. Luckily, nothing was damaged or broken.

We learned several valuable lessons this weekend.
  1. Never drive through rural Missoura. Stick to the interstates, even if the GPS says it's faster the other way.
  2. Never buy a GM.
  3. Never buy an electric car that you have to charge.
  4. If you meet a guy named Homer in Columbia, MO, you should shake his hand and buy him a beer.

The End.