Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wow. Where did December go?

Well, it went toward a multitude of year-end projects at work. And our annual holiday charity program. And sickness. Don't forget the sickness. Both the mother and I seem to have been battling some kind of crud or other all season. For me, it culminated in a trip to urgent care on Friday. I left with Rxs for antibiotics and ear drops.

I am very much improved. I shudder to think what kind of shape I'd be in had I not caved and walked the four blocks from the office to urgent care five days ago!

So, all is quiet on this front. I munched on barbecue meatballs, watched "Christmas in Connecticut" and chatted with friends on Facebook after the mother fell asleep. I was going to watch "A Christmas Story" but when she wakes up she'll want to watch it. And, it will be on again and again and again. And again.

Instead, I'm here in the light of the tree, watching the latter part of "It's A Wonderful Life." I love this movie, so I'm content to be right where I am and grateful to be so much better than I was, even if I'm not completely well. (I'd share a pic of the tree but Blogger has decided I cannot post it vertically. Whatever.)

It's been bitterly cold today and I'm contemplating brewing myself a nice cup of tea and perhaps spiking it. And, topping it off with a nice slice of fruitcake. Yes. That's a good plan. I'll do that!

But first, I'll wish you a very Merry Christmas. I hope that you are well, safe, warm and surrounded by love wherever you may be.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two Tales of Black Friday

"You're an idiot."

That's what someone said to me on a friend's Facebook thread where I was talking about Black Friday shopping. The person was apparently vehemently opposed to the annual post-holiday consumer pilgrimage. I respect that.

I'll even admit that every year, there's almost always a strong case to be made for that opinion. And this year is no exception. But still, in roughly 13 or 14 years of observing this annual event, I've seen only a handful of incidents and those were minor at best.

Instead, what I have seen are people laughing, talking to one another and often, helping each other. People sharing carts when there were none and purchases were tough to keep moving in the line. Others offering a cell phone so a girl could attempt to contact her mother and let her know she was in line. Still others telling one member of a shopping "team" where they located one of the bargains so someone could quickly retrieve one while the team was still in line.

And today, when a lady discovered she had one less T-shirt than she had intended to purchase (either hadn't grabbed enough or had dropped one while making her way through the store), a guy piped up and said, "Go get you one. I'll keep your place and watch your stuff." And he did.

One reason I've probably had such positive Black Friday experiences is that I don't buy electronics. (Except online.) Or, I'm generally not seeking the season's hot new toy. That's not to say that I don't often shop for popular items; I do. They just don't happen to those things that folks generally would duke it out over or trample someone else to get to.

Through a combination of online shopping and devoting just a few hours to hit three stores on Friday morning (and mid-morning at that), I scored several of the items on lists for families and seniors we are adopting for the holidays at work. I also got a few things for myself, some gifts for friends, the mother and Toby -- and saved hundreds of dollars doing it. I also earned $90 in Kohl's Cash from some of those purchases.

I did all that and while I was doing it, no one was trampled or even rude. Lines moved quickly and shoppers were well behaved. Friendly even.

If then, going out to shop on Black Friday makes me an idiot, so be it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a busy day around here -- for me at least. It's probably the only day of the year you can almost always find me in the kitchen.

I got a later start than usual this year. Instead of being up getting the turkey ready at 8 or 9, I was determined to not get up until I felt like it. This year, that was 11:15. And for most of the next four hours, I was cooking, prepping or checking on something.

Then, after gorging myself silly, it was getting everything into the fridge, the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned up. Now, I'm quite tempted to emulate both Toby and the mother and just curl up and go to sleep. Instead, I may just tear into this.

Tomorrow, instead of a traditional midnight, 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. shopping start, I just have to get going in time to use a coupon at Michaels before noon and multiple discounts at Kohl's before 1 p.m. (I did most of my Black Friday shopping online, not including a pre-midnight run last night to Walgreens to score some toy deals for our charity program at work.)

Whatever you did today and plan to do tomorrow, I hope it's a lot of fun! Be safe out there.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gee Thanks, Mother Nature

A couple of months ago, I was delighted when I saw a fall forecast preview that predicted a "warmer than average November." If only ...

It's been below average most of the month and downright bone-chilling for most of the past week. (Single-digit windchills tonight.) This wouldn't be a big deal except for one important thing: I have a patio to finish.

I took Friday off and the only thing I got done was a trip to Menard's where Lawrence and I picked up both the scallops and the columns, both of which had FINALLY arrived. It was just TOO cold to work out there Saturday. And so, it's supposed to warm up this coming week but Lawrence isn't available.

I had hoped he could put the scallops on the sides of the patio roof on Tuesday when it's supposed to be back near 50. But, he recently had a fender bender and is dropping his truck off for repair on Tuesday. Then he and his wife are heading out of town for Thanksgiving. He won't be back until next Sunday. Perfect.

So ... my one hope is that we're going to get some 45 degree or better days in December. The odds are in my favor because the average temperature is in the 40s. Which, apparently means nothing, considering that average November temps are the low to mid-50s.

I'm off again the next two Fridays (the day after Thanksgiving is a holiday at work) and I took the following Friday as one of my remaining vacation days. Here's hoping that I can get something accomplished THAT weekend since we're clearly running out of time.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Changing Up

I can't believe I haven't posted these yet, but I've been a little busy. And, since yesterday, been having trouble signing into my account. But that's a rant I don't have the energy to go off about.


So, the other half of the Special Project changed out the storm door on the front of the house as we had on the back. That happened last Saturday. As I did with the back door, I have to admit, I like it. While it wasn't as hard to install as the first one, it did take some time. The good news: It was worth the effort. That sucker seals up TIGHT. It will definitely help keep out the cold in winter and the bugs in summer in ways its predecessor never did.

I did not anticipate that it would change the look of the house as much as I think it has. You can decide for yourself.

I did not anticipate that it would change the look of the house as much as I think it has. You can decide for yourself.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Roofing Lesson

I'll caveat this post by concluding that I am an idiot. In fairness, sometimes you don't know what you don't know. Except for picking up those ripped from the roof in 2006 (the roof our current one replaced), I'd had relatively little experience with rooftops. Until Friday.

Thursday evening, I spent 30 minutes at Lowe's trying to see what, if anything, might match the roof since I couldn't get what we have on the house to put atop the patio. Or so I thought.

I made up my mind that Friday morning the very FIRST thing that Lawrence and I would do would be to ascend the roof with samples.  So up we climbed with two sample booklets, an actual sample AND one of the roofing shingles from the 8 packs of Sierra Gray laying on my patio. Lawrence flipped that shingle onto the roof of the house. And my heart stopped for a second.

Not only it was a match, it was an EXACT match. And so, shingling began in earnest. Turns out that the part of the shingle that freaked me out, that off color ... you don't see that. That's where the next layer covers over. Stimpy, YOU IDIOT! Well, what did I know? Even Lawrence didn't immediately get that because he hadn't put architectural shingles up before. Of course, he has now.

The foreground shingles are the house. That upper portion is the new roof for the patio. If you don't see a difference, that's OK. There isn't one!

I shot this picture because you can't really appreciate the match as much from far away nor can you really see the detail of the architectural shingles from the yard. The slope of the roof isn't substantial enough that it shows like it does on the house or the carport.

See for yourself. I had to go halfway down the alley just to get a full view!
 You'll notice that there is actually some furniture on the patio, in addition to the plywood and soffit and fascia waiting to go up. We moved stuff out of the carport, now that the patio is at least covered, so that Pearl could have at least some of her space back.

It's the first time that Pearl has been in her own space in about 10 weeks. It took me more than one try to get her where I could reasonably open the door because is there is so much still under there!

To say I was relieved by the match and overjoyed to get this finished is a gross understatement. I was obsessing to the point that it was making me sick.

So now I'm siting here hoping they STAY UP THERE. Severe storms and wind here today. What should be a peaceful day of rest for me is just a little intense as we keep checking on everything. So far, so good.

Cross your fingers our luck holds out!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The "Special" Project

I alluded to a special project Lawrence and I half-completed. Well, here it is. We managed to complete this last Saturday.
This is the new back storm door. (Note the construction in the upper right corner.) Hoping tomorrow to put the matching one on the front. We had intended to get both of them up last week but man, this door had absolutely NO HOLES in it at all.

Instead of getting two done in three hours (including packing up the old doors in the new doors' packaging) it took that long just to get this thing on! I'm hoping that now that we've done this once, the front will go a little faster. We'll see.

It really makes the back of the house pop! I hate to admit it, but I like it. It was one of those things that the mother HAD to have. Our storm doors were still in pretty good shape . But hey, with all the work that has gone into this freakin' patio, I can't say I mind.

Today was focused on the patio roof. (More to come later.) But here's hoping that some of tomorrow can be devoted to switching out the front door.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sorry, That’s Discontinued

If you’ve never heard those words before regarding a needed product for a home improvement project, I hope that you never do. But this week, it sucks to be me: I heard that phrase while trying to track down the shingles we have on the house.
 
Obviously, I’d like to have the same shingles for the patio roof. (Of course, I’d like to spend the weekend with Hugh Jackman, too. At this point, my odds with Hugh are looking better than my odds of scoring those shingles.) I thought I’d found them, too.
You can see the shingles in question in the banner and in the various pix of the house on this page. I mistakenly thought they were Owens Corning Sierra Gray. After several discussions and much research, I now believe they are actually OC’s Antique Silver – a color that no longer exists. The Sierra Gray is close – or at least some of it is. In this picture, you can see that the top half is a light gray with both black and white accents. Meanwhile, the lower half is dark and, of all things, has BROWN mixed in. WTF?!
 
My dilemma is this: Knowing that at least part of these shingles are dark and will create a checkerboard pattern on the patio roof that doesn’t exist on the house, do I just go with them?
 
They’re on the patio, sitting, waiting. Or, do I go a shade or two lighter with shingles that may not be in stock. If they’re not, that means going through the special order process yet again. *sigh* Frankly, I don’t like either option.
 
I’ve yet to break this to the mother. *triplesigh* And I’ve not yet decided what to do. But I'll figure it out. Somehow, I always do. On to Plan B ...

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Good, The Great and the Very, Very Ugly

I took yet another Friday off and the extended weekend produced a mixed bag of results.
 
The good: My neck and shoulder have healed. (Crosses fingers.) On Friday, we got the second side of the patio roof enclosed.
On Saturday, Lawrence got the drainage work completed, including attaching all the drip edge, so we’re ready for shingles.*
 
The great: I finished the brickwork!!! (Waits for vault of Heaven to open and cherubic interlude to the Hallelujah Chorus to begin.) We also managed to get half of the special project done. We only got half of it done because it took twice as long as anticipated. sigh. Stay tuned for details on that in its own post.
 
*The very, very ugly: Something is amiss with the shingles. I discovered this late yesterday, only after the mother kept nagging me about it. One half of the shingles are the color of our existing roof, as they should be. The other half? A weird mishmash of varying colors. Why? So far, no one can tell me. The solution? Hell if I know.
 
The end result of my one step forward, three steps back weekend put me in sort of a funk. Add to that Mother Nature's latest handiwork. We're being plunged into the deepfreeze as I type this. It was over 60 degrees today (and a day I had anticipated that Lawrence could shingle the patio roof) but tomorrow the high will be 38. Yes, 38. WTF, Mother Nature? Et tu?
 
Let's say that and a small family drama haven't done much to improve my somber and sullen state. On the bright side ...
 
This cold snap is only supposed to last through Thursday. By Friday and through the weekend were back over 50 degrees. And, I am taking yet another Friday off. (This is what happens when you take two vacation days all summer and maybe only three or four others the rest of the year before that! You scramble to get all of it in before the end of the year.) With the holidays upon us -- another thing that is irritating the crap out of me, the endless countdown of days 'til Christmas -- I'm going to get mighty spoiled by all these three- and four-day weeks. I think I deserve it though.
 
Besides, it's not like I'm sitting around eating bon-bons. I've been working my *ss off. As a result, I am the tired, grumpy and frustrated individual writing this post. I promise I will return soon in an improved frame of mind and will update with photos as soon as the weather relents.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Slowed to a Crawl

My neck/shoulder is better. (Today, it's moved away from my neck and a little down into my upper back.)

I debated going outside and trying to finish my brickwork. Thinking that I should just lay low instead. So, I'm holed up in the livingroom watching the TV adaptation of Stephen King's "Bag of Bones." This means that nothing gets done today. And that's on top of yesterday's rather slow progress.

That's not entirely true. Lawrence and I spent yesterday morning at Menard's. We picked up the shingles for the roof, all of the associated drainage pieces and another special order I'll share next week, once it's unboxed. I had some limited activity yesterday, helping unload the truck once we got back home and helping Lawrence by handing things up to him when he was on the ladder or the roof. His big progress was closing in one side of the patio's roof and covering it in roofing paper.

But back for a second to drainage. I think drainage, I'm thinking gutters. Who the hell knew it was gutters, downspouts, elbows, extenders, connectors, end caps, facia, soffit ... the list just seems to be never-ending. All of these pieces made up the largest chunk of the bill, too. Not cheap either.

Lawrence is going to come tomorrow and work on said drainage and then, ideally, at least start on the roof now that we have shingles. I'll be at work. I hope to be taking Friday off so we can deal with that special project and then back to the scheduled activity. Of course, all this is assuming that my neck/shoulder and now back decide to cooperate.