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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Place for everything...

and everything (more or less) in its place.

We've been settling into our new home for a month and two days, and with the arrival last Friday of our Riley's bookcases, we were finally able to continue unpacking our books and DVDs. 

This is a view of the kitchen, with the island counter on the left and breakfast table on the right. As these are the first convenient flat surfaces one comes to when entering the house they tend to collect junk, and we have to clear them off regularly. By the back door is a weedwacker (strimmer), newly acquired from WalMart (with 10% employee discount) waiting to move on into the toolshed. Outside the window lurks our BBQ Grill.   

The family room has been augmented with four new pieces of furniture. There are matching bookcases either side of the fireplace, a TV stand (with new 55" flatscreen TV), and a media case for our DVDs. It doesn't really hold half our DVD collection, so the rest (mostly mine) spills over into...

Bedroom 4, aka The Office. Really it's my computer games room, and still requires a lot of organisation, as I find the time and energy.

The living room has a new 4'x6' bookcase, split between Beth and myself, which we filled in no time. This room is a lot more tidy than most as we deliberately keep it uncluttered.

The loft area has an identical bookcase, this time solely for Beth's crafting books and materials. The bookcase is deliberately not central between the doors to give more useable space in the loft, and because there's a power socket just to its left.

Finally, we also have a 55" TV in the bedroom, which is not an inch too big when you're 20 feet away.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Found and Lost

Two days ago we had a very heavy overnight rainfall, 0.7" in less than 12 hours, along with some wind. It was quite refreshing after several days of unbroken sunshine, and Beth and I enjoyed listening to the rain, though our cats stayed indoors and Ghost slept on the bed for the first time. He gnawed our toes in the early hours to show he was still feeling chipper.

Just as I was getting ready to leave for work the next morning, we discovered that the rain had brought something new to our garden: a big golden dog.

Beth and I whipped outside, via separate exits, and rounded up the poor damp canine, who after a brief attempt to evade me, willingly approached Beth and allowed himself to be caught. We brought the dog into the garage, gave him a bowl of water and some catfood which he wolfed down, and some towels to lie on. I then had to leave for work, leaving Beth to try to locate the owner.

In my absence, Beth took the dog along to our neighbour Jane who has two large dogs of her own, and is currently dogsitting a third, and our stray happily joined their ranks. Jane and Beth drove the dog to our local vet, but they couldn't find any microchip implant, and of course we'd already checked for a nametag on the collar. There was a collar, the kind that is supposed to react to an invisible fence by giving the dog a small electric shock, but obviously it didn't stop this chap from straying.

By my first break at 11am Beth had taken pictures and created some posters, and after they got back from the vet trip Jane and Beth took all four dogs for a walk round the neigbourhood, putting up the posters on mailboxes and telegraph poles.

By 2:30pm there was still no communication from the owner, and Beth came over to WalMart to do some necessary shopping. Whilst there, she finally received a phone call from the owner, who had been astonished to see the posters because they hadn't realised their dog was even missing.

I got home from work around 4:30pm to hear the last chapter. The dog, named Yoshi, is scared of the noise of wind, so during the night he must have run away, coming along the bank of the creek behind the houses from their garden which is two cul-de-sacs further south. Yoshi had never strayed before so the owner

1) hadn't had him microchipped
2) hadn't put a nametag on his collar,
3) hadn't put his rabies tag on his collar, and
4) hadn't replaced the batteries in his electric collar.

We're very happy that Yoshi is reunited with his owners, and the family have small children who were very happy to see him again, but I have a niggling concern that the owners were irresponsible in doing nothing to ensure that if their dog ever strayed he would be quickly identified and returned. Not putting a nametag on your dog because he has never strayed is like not insuring your house because it has never been burgled.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Enjoying our Garden

Now we have some nice weather and the space to spread out, we're both enjoying a light touch of gardening. This is an autostitched panorama of the back garden, with Beth working on our small strawberry patch. In the foreground is the paved patio with our sun recliners, the grill in the corner, and our new gazebo in the background.

Beth and I spent weeks looking for a gazebo with all four sides able to be curtained, and with full screen netting. We found this one at Lowe's and on Tuesday we put it up, before getting some lightweight patio furniture for it yesterday. The gazebo catches the early morning sun, and is then more shaded from the heat of the day. This provides us with a cool and bug-reduced zone for really hot weather, and in cooler weather we can move the table and chairs out and either have them just in front of the gazebo on the pebbles, or move across the lawn and use them on the patio.

Up against the fence is one of Beth's growing areas. There is a grape vine trailing along the back fence, and a pear tree on the corner. This raised bed has been dug over and planted by Beth, with some lettuce, peas and a strawberry plant so far, with carrots and other veggies going in today. At the back of the bed are some onions or chives which we didn't plant.

Along the overgrown creek is a raised area with some rhubarb, and supposedly some potatoes. We're not keen on rhubarb, and plan to dig over the whole bed in time and plant more potatoes. The cats enjoy strolling around here, and diving into the wilder areas along the creek.

Taken from the same spot, a view of our creek where a family of ducklings are being raised. We haven't messed with this at all yetas we think it's supposed to be left as a wilderness area, and we don't want to disturb the wildlife. Our neighbour Robert will be advising us on exactly what we are allowed and expected to do. We discovered a cherry tree on ther bank, so we're hoping for a crop of cherries around June.

 Looking back towards the main house from in front of the Gazebo. There's a rosebush at the corner of the house that we're watching for progress. It was one of four, but the other three were taken (by agreement) by the previous owners. There is another rose down by the pear tree, and two more round the side of the house where they don't really get much sun. We may try to move those two round to fill in the gaps left in the border in the center of this photo.

On the North wall of the house is a lean-to toolshed, a very useful addition by the previous owners. Here we store the lawnmower and other garden tools, and fuel for the BBQ and firepit. In the background you can see the US flag flying from our front porch. I switch this around with the UK flag and the England flag every now and then.

Round at the front, the lawn gets less sun and is more patchy. We've done nothing with the flowerbeds except a little weeding, but there are some tulips and various other flowers popping up.

These violas are particularly pretty right now, for no effort.


This Japanese Red Maple is one of several handsome trees on our plot, and very much enjoyed.

Finally for today, right on the corner of our drive we have this rhodedendron bush.  Rhodies are very popular in Eugene, and though not my favorite flower this one is doing well and in full bloom right now.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Getting your Ducks in a Row

Throughout our visa application process, Beth took the leading role in obtaining information, organising the necessary paperwork, and making sure we were ready for any questions at the interview. My input was mostly signing where Beth told me to, and attending a medical exam and the interview itself.

I have many reasons to be delighted to be married to Beth, not the least being that she is someone who always has her ducks in a row. Beth enjoys research and obtaining information, while I'm more inclined to dive in headfirst to test the depth of the water. Our partnership works because we listen to each other, and work out who will do what. Beth calms me down with her logical thinking, researching and reasoning, while I liven her up with my spontaneity.

A woeful visa application story I read recently demonstrates how NOT to go about the process. A couple in their mid-50s decided they wanted to move to the US. They sold their UK house, rented a caravan for the husband to live in, put all their possessions into storage, and the USC wife went over to the US to start set up house while their application was processed. Then came the glitch, the wife had failed to file any tax returns while living in the UK, and so could not provide the required tax information to the US Embassy. This was not an irretrievable situation, because you can file late tax returns, but instead of researching how to do ths, or asking anybody, they decided that the wife needed to live in the US for three years, filing taxes every year, so they would have new tax returns.

The drawback of course is that two years on the husband is still living in a caravan, paying enormous storage fees, and they are living in different countries. He's mightily annoyed at the situation, but is blaming the system that requires a US citizen to file taxes even if living abroad. We have yet to learn if their application will succeed, or if the partnership will survive the strain.

Fortunately Beth is more than a trifle sharper than this, and kept doing her tax returns thoughout her UK years, which as she had very little US based income, and had been doing her own tax returns for years, were not overly, ahem, taxing to do. She makes sure that all Ts are crossed and Is dotted, before being required to do so. Beth is capable of being spontaneous, but is incapable of making a badly informed or foolish decision.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Sugar, ah honey honey, You are my candy aisle

As part of my Wal*Mart job in dry groceries, I am frequently called on to work the candy aisle.

Even in America we don't pretend that candy is real food, so the candy aisle is not with the rest of the groceries but halfway across the store near the Pharmacy. This causes some confusion to new customers, but it's probably just as well to stop children bugging their parents. A visit to the candy aisle cannot be made inadvertently.

When Beth and I first arrived, I got very excited at CostCo, a big warehouse-like store, and invested in several big bags and boxes of candy, including M&Ms (both chocolate and peanut), Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Skittles in various guises, and even Beth, who barely touches candy, got caught up in the moment and bought a 6lb bag of Gummy Bears. Apart from the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, we still have at least 5/6 of the original supply in stock.

As a consequence I haven't actually bought much candy from Wal*Mart, but I do have the opportunity to familiarize myself with the various brands which are known to every American schoolchild. There's a lot of them, so I'll give just a flavor here:

Dots, Mike & Ike's, Junior Mints, York Peppermint Patties, Hershey's Kisses, SweeTarts, Necco Wafers, Swedish Fish, Tootsie Rolls, Almond Joy, Butterfinger, Babe Ruth, 3 Musketeers.

I've left out anything that bears the same name as a UK product, but familiar names like Mars, Twix and Milky Way often conceal a product that bears only a passing resemblance to the UK version.

One thing is certain, that Eugenians gets through a LOT of candy.