Wednesday, February 13, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood?

New condo project in works in Iowa City

University Heights residents worried about traffic

This was the blaring headline in today's Press Citizen.

In a nutshell: University Heights is surrounded by Iowa City. At one border with IC there is a nine acre tract of empty land. This land is heavily utilized in the fall as a spot for "tailgating" at University of Iowa football games. Several years ago developers tried to buy the land and market "sports condos" but the venture fell through. More recently someone tried to buy the land and then rent large chunks of it to corporations for tailgating with 10 year leases until the city of Iowa City stepped in and said that the area wasn't zoned for it.

Why does U-Heights (my fair city) care about this? Because there are three streets that dead end into the property which would be it's only access points. All three are located in University Heights. My guess is that residents are concerned that traffic will greatly increase, city of UH will have to upgrade roads, but all tax benefit of the development will go to Iowa City. The land has a fairly rugged topography, water drainage will be an issue, thereby not allowing any access from Iowa City.

As a relative newcomer to town all I have to fall back on is history. In reading Memoirs of Iowa's Only Socialist Mayor David Belgum writes of a plan to develop the area in the 1960's. At that point University Heights City Council was ready to vacate all three streets thereby leaving no access to the property! In the end the developer gave up then too.

Lots of comments to the story on the P-C's website, let the fun begin.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mardi Gras Success

We had a great time with our Mardi Gras dinner. (see previous post) Everyone was able to come in spite of the weather. We have had a pretty hard week: no school Monday due to heavy snow and big winds causing drifts. We dismissed early Tuesday due to impending freezing rain, and no school Wednesday due to Tuesday's storm that lasted through Wednesday. This week we've gotten 20+ inches of snow plus some ice (I know to the Minnesotans that doesn't seem like much)

We had mask making and Ellie had the hands down best one:

We had great food and of course beads:

And Ellie found the baby Jesus (masquerading as a blue dinosaur) in her King cake so her family will host next year.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fais Do-Do!

Happy Mardi Gras everyone. We are hosting a dinner tonight, and as a former catholic turned neo-pagan I really appreciate mardi gras. The menu will be entirely Cajun.

On Sunday I made lagniappe stew, which is a true odds and ends dish. Sadly I was unable to find a ready source of cow brain, heart, or kidney (insert Mad Cow joke here) and went with only pork sausage, beef marrow guts and beef liver. My Luxembourgish Grandmother would think the stuff is extremely spicy brauschweiger.

Lisa made pralines, and a King cake. Whoever finds the baby (this year it is a toy dinosaur) will have to host next year's dinner.

Others are bringing gumbo, jambalaya, and etoufee.
There will be chicory coffee, cornbread, and red beans and rice.

Mardi gras always makes me nostalgic. My first girlfriend was Cajun. I was four years old and so was Cindy Barrilleaux. She lived across the street from us in North Liberty. Her father was at the University of Iowa getting a PhD. He was the first member of his family off the bayou. I think he and his wife had a lot in common with my parents, who were both the first of their generation off the farm. The grandparents came up from Louisiana one summer, I had never met anyone who didn’t speak English before. I remember standing and watching them talk, amazed that they could understand each other. That was where we were introduced to gumbo and red beans and rice. My dad could never get used to chicory coffee however.

When Mr. Barrilleaux finished his doctorate the family moved back to Louisiana and Cindy broke my heart. It wasn’t a total loss however, she and her brothers left us all their winter coats and snow sleds. Hence my nostalgia every year at Mardi Gras time, I’d be out sledding and think of Cindy.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What Are You Looking Through AT?

I’ve been working on windows lately. (and really what old house owner ISN'T always working on windows?) I repaired and re-varnished all the upstairs windows last summer, but had never gotten to putting stops back into the window frames after I did all that, because I didn’t want to have to cut all the stop material.

As part of the salvage that FHP did a couple weeks ago I was able to get some stop material from the windows in the old Law School. But this is not ordinary stop, it was all screwed into place (which is WAY more convenient if you ever have to take the windows out. What I noticed right away was that the stop was mitered at the corners. All stop I’ve ever stopped (pun intended) to look at was butt jointed.

When I started to remove the stop I discovered that the front was mitered and the back was butt jointed! Here is a shot of a side piece:

Here is a shot of the top piece:

And together:

And tight:

And from the back:

The windows I took the stop from were all much bigger than our windows, so I’ve had to cut them down. A few also had extra nail holes so I’ve actually replicated all the cuts with my hand miter box. I think this is a very ingenious way to fit the parts together. Has anyone else ever seen this?