Friday, August 28, 2009

Duck Parade

Every day around five o'clock, a bunch of ducks walk from the lake across the street to the creek behind our house.

They're totally looking both ways before crossing:

Waddle, waddle.

Oh no! A car's coming!

(I apologize for my ungraceful cinematography.)

The rest of them trek onwards.

This was about a week ago. We've had a lot of rain since then, so the lawn has gotten pretty long. I noticed today that the grass is flattened on the ducks' route! Ducks are cute. They're waaaayyyy better to have around than those honking Canada geese. Oh, how I loathe you, Canada geese.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Five: 8/21

1. What time of the day is your favorite, and why?

Early morning, when everything is nice and peaceful. I rarely experience this, however, usually opting for more sleep.

2. What's the best time to take a walk, and where to?

Mid-evening around 7pm. Lately I've been walking to a nearby park with a playground set among some trees. I can make a nice loop along some trails through wooded areas. Walks like this remind me of why we moved to this neighborhood.

3. When can you work best?

Nighttime. I'm a total night owl. I was up painting last night till after 10pm. (Don't worry, I was doing the ceiling with a roller, the windows were open, a fan was running, and it was nice and breezy.)

4. What to do on sunny mornings and stormy evenings?

Sunny mornings: sit out on the deck with a nice book or magazine. Stormy evenings: cook a warm meal then curl up on the couch.

5. When you look outside right now, what do you see?

All I have to do is look above my computer screen to see the tall trees that line the creek behind our house. Sometimes I see cardinals, blue jays and yellow finches giving me avian primary color lessons. Unfortunately, this view is occluded by our terrible windows, which we hope to replace next year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vacation 2009: Day 4, Part 2

After we exhausted the available activities and exhibitions at Fort Michilimackinac, we crossed the bridge again back to the UP. We stopped in St. Ignace to stroll along the boardwalk, do a little window- and fudge-shopping, and have a dinner of delicious pizza.

One great thing about the UP is you can go in to a pizza place, slightly below the dining experience level of a Pizza Hut (but much more delicious), and sit on the patio, which happens to have a very pleasant view of Lake Huron:

After dinner, we began the long drive back to Manistique, stopping at a beach off the side of the road for some after-dinner frolicking.

She does NOT do sand.


The sun started to set.

I could've sworn I was sucking in!

That's better. :)

After at least an hour of driving, we got home close to 10pm. And this is what the sky looked like:

And this concludes my series on Vacation 2009. Friday was a very low-key day and very windy and dreary, so I took zero pictures. But it's nice to end on pretty sunset pictures, right?

Vacation 2009: Day 4, Part 1

Thursday took us over the Mackinac Bridge to the Lower Peninsula! Destination: Colonial Fort Michilimackinac.

First, we saw a cannon demonstration.

There were lots of activities and things to see at the fort. The pristine weather and beautiful setting made for a fun day!

As you can see, we didn't get far into the LP at all.

There was an Odawa tribesman there, and he was very taken with Lexi and her Cherokee heritage.

Here are some random photos that I like:

Archeologists are still finding artifacts every day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A/C Rant

As you all know, we moved this summer. And as you also probably know, it's been a very mild summer. When we moved, the high temperatures did not get above the low 70s, and we were glad for that. Then, in late June, the temperatures soared to the low 90s, and it was finally time to run the air conditioner. Erich had replaced the thermostat and programmed it. We flipped it to "Run" and the system whooshed on.

And it kept running and running, but it never got any cooler. That's when we knew there was a problem.

Since the seller (let's call him Mr. C for "curmudgeon") had certified in a signed document that the air conditioner was working during the last cooling season "to the best of his knowledge," we figured we could cash in on the home warranty from Home Warranty of America that came with the house. Incidentally, the garage door opener which had been working suddenly stopped working. Erich identified the problem as a stripped gear, undoubtedly owing to the advanced age of the mechanism. We had HWA contract people to fix the a/c and the garage door opener.

The HVAC guy they sent was a bit of a drama queen. He opened up the unit in our backyard and immediately asked me if we got a home inspector. Of course, yes. And did he tell us the a/c worked? Since I didn't remember him saying that it didn't work, I said yes. With a sigh, he declared, "It doesn't work. The freon is empty, which means there must be a leak." FRICK. He refilled the freon but wasn't authorized to do a leak check, so he couldn't guarantee how long the refill would last. I was at least temporarily satisfied because our house was finally being cooled. We also had the garage door fixed (for a $100 deductible) and it is still working fine.

About three weeks later, we came home from vacation and found that the air conditioner was not working. The HVAC Drama Queen had warned me that HWA probably wouldn't cover any repairs since the a/c never did work for us--it would be considered preexisting, and therefore not covered. So rather than contact HWA again, we went to our realtor. Understandably, she did not make this problem a high priority, so almost a week later, she talked to a rep at HWA. This rep told her that Mr. C's signed document claiming the a/c worked should be proof enough that this was not a preexisting problem.

HWA sent the same HVAC guy out again, who was authorized to do a leak check ONLY. He found the leak, but not before walking past me a few times saying, "Oh, this is going to be bad news for you guys!" Thanks, love the attitude. He informed me that it would cost us approximately $1800 to fix the leak and bring the whole system to updated efficiency standards. And he couldn't even refill the freon to give a poor pregnant lady a break without charging me a bunch of money. I sent him on his way.

We whined again to our realtor, who contacted HWA again and talked to the higher ups who claimed to have gone "to the top." They informed her that the broken air conditioner was a preexisting problem, and no signed documents would change their position on that, which contradicted what our realtor had previously been told. Any repairs would be completely out of our pockets. They also ever-so-kindly mentioned that they shouldn't have even covered the repair of the garage door opener since it was caused by rust damage, which is also preexisting. (Uh, no that was a stripped gear, you dingbat.)

Hearing this made me pretty much lose it. That's when it became utterly clear, and please pay close attention:

Home Warranty of America is a complete racket and a waste of money.

I strongly urge anyone who's reading this and selling their home to stay as far away from the home warranty racket as you can. It is worthless and the people are extremely rude. Why should they be polite or attempt to keep anyone satisfied when they already have their money? What good did it do them to inform us they shouldn't have covered a $200 repair that we still had to pay $100 for? If I had known they saw that as charity, we would have canceled the warranty right then and gotten a brand new garage door opener for about as much as it cost to repair it.

You may be asking the question, "What about the inspector? Why didn't he find this problem?" And you are right to ask that. We have come to find out that because it was 60 degrees out when we had the home inspected, the inspector couldn't test the a/c because it was below 65 and to test it could have damage the compressor. Thanks to the bleeping time of year we bought our house, we couldn't have known the a/c didn't work and couldn't have demanded Mr. C fix it before closing.

Our last hope was to send an inquiry to the attorneys, to see if we had any right to demand anything from Mr. C for his busted air conditioner. That query sat in their offices for three weeks until today when they finally informed Erich that we would have to start a lawsuit to get any money out of anyone. This does not surprise me, but it sucks nonetheless.

This topic is so infuriating and upsetting, I'd better wrap it up before I become little more than a damp, quivering mass on the floor. I decided today that I really, really cannot take this heat and humidity and wait for fall. It could very well stay this hot through October, and I'm not becoming any less of a human furnace. So, with a baby on the way and numerous other plans for our stretched budget, we have to bite the bullet and get a new air conditioner (and completely replace a shower, but that's another story).

Renters, count your blessings. And everyone: never forget,


The Real New Keller

I've been a Keller for nearly two years now, so I happily give up the title to the newest member of the family:

Lily Anne, our Lily flower, happily growing in the Lily Pad, should make her appearance around mid-January 2010. I'd say I can't wait, but at this point I suppose I can: There's a lot to do between now and then!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vacation 2009: Day 3

Don't worry: we were all way more excited than Emily was in this picture to be at Seul Choix Pointe. Actually, she was okay with being the lighthouse, but I guess she doesn't really see herself as a sea captain.

On Wednesday, we headed to Seul Choix. In French, that's pronounced "sull shwah," but the Yoopers (people from the UP) pronounce it "sih-shwah." As I almost got a minor in French in college, I decided to pronounce it the French way and just drop the L-sound. Compromise.

Wednesday's weather was extremely refreshing after Monday and Tuesday's chills. Mid-70s and bright, sunny skies. A perfect day to go up in a lighthouse!

Here we are! The whole Keller Klan.

Another view of the building. It's been beautifully restored in the last 20 years. The house is really nice and fancy on the inside, which is rare for lighthouses. That's as expert as I'm going to pretend to be. My MIL is the true lighthouse expert!

The stairs that made my knees hurt "from here to here."

We're in the top of the lighthouse here.


After touring the lighthouse, we walked along the rocky lakeshore. Of the entire vacation, there were several highlights, but I think this walk was my favorite.

I mean, for starters, look how clear and still and beautiful this water is! Just look!


And these are my feet in the water! You can't even tell except for the line around my ankles!

That water was SOOOO COLD but absolutely lovely and delightful.

Brother Rock. This was the first Keller UP trip in a long time that someone didn't have to pretend to put his arm around the brother who couldn't be there.

(I got this shot by hanging the camera from my neck and pressing the button. Otherwise I would have had to lay, stomach-down, on the the gravel.)

"Rock-jumping," a Keller-boy favorite activity.

King of the World!

Lexi the mermaid. With legs.

I learned something about Michael that week. That boy sure loves to wear sweatshirts in all but the hottest weather! I think that's what happens when you're roughly the width of a telephone pole, with no fat to keep you warm on a 78-degree day.

There was a toad on the picnic table!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Pipe Organ

I just watched this video and immediately had to put it up here on the ol' blog. You should watch it too!

Kevin Hildebrand and Paul Grime do a fantastic job of highlighting all the reasons why the pipe organ truly is the king of instruments. I think it's sad when people view the organ as something old-fashioned or hokey. It really is the best instrument to lead congregational song and, depending on the instrument and the organist, is quite beautiful to listen to.

I love the piano, but I'd take the organ over piano in church any day!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vacation 2009: Day 2, Part 2

After the first part of our day at Tahquamenon Falls, we trekked across the peninsula, stopping briefly to pick up some delicious smoked fish for dinner, and arrived at my favorite place: Kitchitikipi. Or, depending on what sign you read, Kitch-iti-kipi. Or Kitchi-ti-kipi.

But what IS this remarkable place? you may ask. Well, it's a big spring. It's about 40-feet deep and clear as glass. And it's really, really awesome. We got there late in the day, which was a cool time to see the trees' reflections on the water. I can't do it justice with any more words, so I'll just post a small sampling of the approximately 43,000 photos I took.

This is from the raft on the spring. It feeds into this river. The raft moves along a cable, propelled by a big, kid-friendly wheel.

The view straight down.

Unshaven Uncle Erich being daddy-ish with Emily, looking down into the spring.

This is where the water bubbles up.

And THIS is the spring in action. What's that sound in the background? That's Emily providing narration for what she saw, which was this:

It's a lot more fun than it looks.

All the BILs, and a glimpse of FIL, looking at this:

That's the best picture I could get of the gigantic trout swimming around. I hear there are usually a lot more (maybe earlier in the day?), but we just saw a handful.

I liked the way the light came through the trees.

Back at the house, this was a typical evening activity. Without TV or radio, the Cubs fans were reduced to "watching" the games via phone updates. At least Erich got good enough cell service up there for MLB Gameday!

This was Emily's favorite activity. She says "Boo!"; everyone else acts startled. In this particular game, the little princess learned how little she has to do to captivate an entire room of big people. Who needs TV when you have a toddler?