Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 10 Things Of 2008

It’s been a busy year to say the least. To try to recount all the things that went into making this year both good and bad at This D*mn House would be impossible, not to mention boring and time-consuming. Here’s what I hope is a digestible list of my Top 10 highlights for the year 2008, in no particular order.
1. Cancer scare. The highlight: It was just that – a scare. While the mother had some serious ill effects from having a growth removed, it wasn’t cancerous and she got well.
2. This D*mn House, the blog. While the blog is technically a product of 2007, I didn’t really do much to build it until Q2 of this year. The rewards from it (connecting with bloggers all over the world, reconnecting or making deeper connections with friends in the real world, getting an outlet for my writing addiction, being read – and recognized by -- *gulp* published authors, being read at all, ending up on at least two dozen blog rolls, getting love from tool companies) have been tremendous.
3. Crop Camp. This annual scrapbooking pilgrimage is a highlight of every year, any year. The comical camaraderie combined with scrapbooking is a high for me without chemicals (‘cept sugar and caffeine). After having had to miss it in 2007 though, this year’s was particularly eventful for me.
4. I have a job. In a year of cutbacks, including some at my own company, I wasn’t among them. (Crossing fingers for repeat highlight in 2009.) It is this job that makes almost every other highlight on this list possible. And some mini-highlights directly related: receiving both the day after Christmas and the day after New Year’s as holidays.
5. Barack Obama. The world, not just this country, is going to hell without the benefit of a handbasket. I’ll concede that some of our woes are cyclical, yet I believe that a larger portion were the direct result of failures of the current administration. Is Obama going to fix it all? No. But what he can do is stop the bleeding. I’m encouraged by the quick but deliberate movements of the transition team thus far and hopeful that we can get this country back on track.
6. This D*mn House, the house. I have the house to thank for the blog. I also have the house to thank for bringing in some of my friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. And I have the house to thank for a general sense of well-being at home, particularly as some ginormous projects – some that have been talked about for years – have officially been completed.
7. Closer to debt-free. This was the year that This D*mn House truly became ours. The mortgage and another multi-year debt were cleared up this year. Now it’s on to killing the credit card. Maybe that's 2009.
8. The porch/walkway project. While this is sort of tied to both No. 2 and No. 6, I think it deserves its own highlight reel. This is one of the largest and toughest jobs (if not the most in both cases) that I’ve ever tackled. And the satisfaction I get not only comes from the many compliments that continue to be voiced by others, it comes every day, each and every time I walk down it.
9. Healthy pets. While Tigger has his issues as he approaches 17, and Toby is mentally unstable on a good day, the fur fiends have enjoyed relatively good health this year. Ozzie, who was incredibly sick at the end of 2006 and early last year, is going strong at 11.5 years.
10. The goodness of others. Maybe it was something nice someone did for me. Or maybe it was goodness I witnessed that was done for someone else. Whatever the case, I saw it in abundance this year and was very glad for it. In a world where so very much is wrong, it's heartening to see so much that's still right! (Hoping for another repeat in 2009)

A Little Excitement

It was a freaky evening.

The excitement began in earnest as before I could even set anything down after walking in the door, I was instantly recruited for a quest of the mother's in search of something she'd misplaced. I found it -- 45 minutes later.

This wouldn't have been a big deal except we had planned to head over the river for a little shopping excursion. But, mystery solved, we continued as planned, albeit delayed.

We were still alternately basking in the glow of 70 percent off sales at one store while bemoaning the imminent closure of the Joann's store we've come to love during the past five or six years, when I pulled into the last gas station before hitting my side of the river. While I had 3/4 of a tank, I couldn't pass up gas at $1.26/gallon. I don't even remember the last time I bought it for that price. Years ago maybe? And the mother needed cigarettes. (Hopefully, this is the last of them as she and my godmother have a deal for the New Year.)

So, I'm inside pre-paying for gas, buying cigarettes, and dropping a few bucks into my new retirement plan (AKA Powerball) while a drama is unfolding outside, just yards away.

When we pulled in, I noticed a badly parked, souped up sports car directly across from us in the parking lot. Rap music beat through its speakers, and spilled through its slightly cracked windows. The car was unoccupied.

As I left the store, the owner/driver of said vehicle was being wrestled into handcuffs by a handful of undercover cops. A young female was being patted down and questioned about the contents of her pockets. An unmarked van blocked the front of both that car in front of the store and mine in one of the gas bays. Three or four other unmarked cop cars dotted the lot.

What I didn't know as I paid for my goods was that the mother, happily left in the car with her Shuffle blasting, initially saw the van pull in and two men, guns drawn, emerge. As they ran toward the store, she panicked. She feared that I had either walked in on a robbery in progress or that the men now running towards the store, guns blazing, planned to do just that.

For a second or two, she said she contemplated firing up Ladybird's engine and driving through the front of the store. (This would have been difficult at least initially though with the unmarked van parked directly in front of the car.) As luck would have it, when the next few unmarked cars sped into the lot, the plainclothesmen who emerged had badges on around their necks. It became evident that these were the good guys.

"That van came out of nowhere," says the mother. "All I saw were two guys running toward the store with guns and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do to get you out of that store."

I had to stifle a chuckle as I briefly envisioned the mother barreling through the front of the store, and inevitably running over and killing me as I attempted to exit. The next fear, as the arrestee initially resisted, was that a gunfight would ensue. "I guess I would have crawled into the backseat if that happened," the mother said.

To me, it looked like they had been trailing this guy (maybe after a drug deal?) and decided that the parking lot, rather than a roadway or inside of an establishment, might be the best place to carry out the bust. But that’s just conjecture on my part.

A few more cars arrived on the scene as I finished pumping gas and we left the lot. That was quite enough excitement for one evening, thank you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday ToolTalk: Euro-Pro Hard Surface Steamer

At the beginning of this year, I bought a steam cleaner at Unfortunately, it must have been last year’s model as it’s now sold out and I can’t seem to find this particular model anywhere anymore. It’s the Euro-Pro Hard Surface Steam Cleaner (Model EPS3306H).

It looks like an even smaller version of our pint-sized Kenmore sweeper. But, just like that vacuum, this machine packs a wallop in spite of its size. We found this out last week when we used it for the first time. We used it to clean the walls, tub and fixtures in the bathroom. What an incredible job it did of blasting stubborn grub and grime, especially from those hard-to-reach spots.

We have a louvered door in the bathroom, something that can be incredibly difficult and painstaking to clean. The steamer made very quick and relatively easy work of it. Because it can only hold a pint (16 oz.) of water at a time, I didn’t expect each filling to go very far, but it did! And even more remarkably, it kept its spraying power up almost to the end of the line.

It has a generous hose from the tank to the steam releaser so you can probably wheel it around on the floor for most jobs. It’s not all that heavy though and comes with an optional shoulder strap for tasks that require you to lift it up or to reach awkward angles. It also includes a floor attachment for ceramic, wood and other hard surfaces and a squeegee. I haven’t tried those yet.
Other places the manufacturer claims the steamer is ideal for are the kitchen counters, sinks, tubs, patio furniture, garbage cans, and tire hubs.

The biggest tips I can offer are 1) have plenty of rags or paper towels ready to wipe up the grime as it runs off, and 2) if you’re cleaning a surface where it will leak onto another, put down plastic.
The next closest thing I can find is this one which looks like a more updated tank style but seems to offer the same features and attachments for around the same price I paid ($90-$100).

If you find a canister-sized model similar to these made by this company, buy it! Almost every review I read gave it 4 or 5 (out of 5 possible) stars and couldn’t say enough good things about it.
Don’t, however, confuse it with its bottle-sized sibling. I can’t imagine those would have as much power or clean for nearly as long, and there are plenty of reviews out there complaining about just those things with the smaller model.

Back to the Grind

So having five days off -- two of which were not insane marathons of housekeeping and holiday entertaining -- appears to have ruined me. I played with the snooze bar this morning as I haven't in months, and I nearly missed the bus as a result.

I would have loved to have stayed in bed today, but alas, work beckons. Though it's like a ghost town to be sure, I'm sure I'll find something to occupy today and tomorrow. I hope.

Here's envying those of you who don't go back 'til Monday and commiserating with the rest of you who got up and went to work today.

Monday, December 29, 2008

At This Hour

The mother, Ozzie, and Toby the Cat are all situated in different parts of the livingroom. All are asleep.

Toby is worn out after regifting onto the dining room throw rug some of the ribbon he ate last night before I could get it away from him. The mother is worn from our day of shopping. And Ozzie. Who knows why Ozzie is tired exactly.

Me? I'm still hangin' on somehow. I managed to get most of today's finds put away as well as started packing up some of the goodies I've collected to take to next month's Crop Camp. (For the scrapbooking-challenged, that's code for a weekend where women get together from Friday to Sunday, ostensibly to scrapbook. It's also about laughing, snacking, and taking a break from it all. In short, it's a damn good time. And, it's also what that countdown clock over in the right-hand margin is counting down to.)

I'm still lagging pretty far behind in getting ready for next weekend's big event, but I can hopefully rectify that within the next week. But, tomorrow it's back to the grind so I'd better go do something productive to prepare for that. Sigh.

(Reminding self to be grateful for job to return to.)

Savoring Slovenly Sloth

Considering that it was Christmas week and that we had people in, we didn’t have nearly as much trash as I’d feared. (Monday is trash day and a ritual I generally dread. Of course, when one doesn’t have to go to work, it’s not nearly as bad a task!)

I ended up taking a series of naps yesterday -- talk about lazy! I didn't even get out of my pajamas. All day.

Preparing to go shopping with the mother. She’s already changed her mind about where she wants to go. Sounds like we’re going to have a good day for it with temps rising to the mid- to upper-50s. In general, the weather has been good and will be good the next few days.

I guess it was lucky that we didn’t go see our guests. Sounds like we’d have been driving through a major thunderstorm on the way there and possibly faced a tornado on the way home! It doesn’t sound like they had any major damage in their neighborhood, but areas nearby had buildings destroyed.

Sounds like folks in Michigan got hit by some of the same bad weather as 200,000 are now without power. Here’s hoping things get better soon for all of you!

Of course, springlike temps today inevitably mean snow this week. Yeah. Winter is back in a day or two.

Sloth mode was fun yesterday, but it will be short-lived, I'm afraid. My bathroom caulk job did not turn out well. That said, one of the hardware stores will be a designated stop. Sounds like a new saga in the works …

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Day of Rest

Ahhhh. Sleep is SO underrated! I'm still a little sore today and even a little wobbly (could probably use a few more hours of z-time) but I do feel better.

The house is quiet. Both Ozzie and Toby the Cat are crashed. The mother and I are watching TV. We debated a shopping trip, but we'll do that tomorrow. Today is a day just to veg out on the couch methinks.

Hard to believe that at this time yesterday there were people all around this table. Now, it's quiet. It's nice to have the house, small though it may be, arranged so that people can GET all around this table. And from there, they can chatter back and forth with anyone in the livingroom. And there sure was a whole lot of that going on yesterday!

Part of the fun of entertaining is dragging out the holiday glassware. See this? This was a gift from my lovely assistant Donna, just in time for my holiday gathering! Isn't it just too cute with its little matching spreader?

I was able to fill it up with some great Wind &Willow dips -- of the red and green variety, of course. (White chocolate cherry and key lime pie. The key lime is probably my all-time favorite.) They're just so good and so perfect, especially this time of year.
You know, there's some of that left, too. I may have to grab me some graham cracker sticks and do a little snackin ...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Good God, I'm behind! There are nearly 5o entries out there from my fellow bloggers, just waiting for me to read. Meanwhile, This D*mn House was silent for two WHOLE DAYS. So I couldn't possibly allow a third to go by though I'm just barely ekeing this entry in under the wire.

Part of the business of the past few days was finishing decorating. Specifically all of those outside ones we never managed to finish. Finally did that on Christmas Day. Of course it was 30-some degrees only to be nearly 70 both yesterday and today. Here's some of the results.

I have good reason for the silence. I was busy with celebrations and celebration prep. In fact, I only recently arose from a brief nap (of about three hours) after being awake and in motion for nearly 36 hours! That's right. From 8 something yesterday morning until nearly 7 p.m. tonight, I was doing stuff in the house or locked in the throes of a celebration with family friends.

We were all so tired when this celebration wrapped up that most of us could barely speak. There were long, uncomfortable silences and even the 10-year-old guest seemed to lose his concentration on the John Wayne western he was engrossed in.
So, part 1 of the revelry is wrapped up. And I couldn't let it slip away without wishing the happiest of holidays to you and yours from me and mine at This D*mn House.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rudolph With Your Nose So Bright

Where’s Rudolph when you need him? I sure could have used him this morning as the commute was damp and foggy. Thankfully, it’s not nearly as cold as it’s been. Had it been, I could have probably just skated in across the river.

Some freezing rain did fall yesterday. They were showing some footage on the news last night of cars careening out of control on an exit ramp. Scary stuff. Luckily – or hopefully – we can get through the holiday and this weekend without any more of that!

The plans seem to change moment to moment. When I got home last night, I was all ready to tackle the bathroom. Instead, the mother was knee-deep in my room (I couldn’t even get in the door) tackling all her doll crap. So I was instead on animal detail (which is a part-time job in itself between the three of them) and continued cleaning glass and furniture in the livingroom and dining room.

Caught a really enjoyable movie last night on the Hallmark Channel called The Christmas Choir. The thing I liked most about it is that it is a true story. The main character, a workaholic finance guy, undergoes quite a personal transformation during which he manages to make a world of difference in the lives of a bunch of homeless guys. Rhea Perlman (Carla from “Cheers”) plays a sassy nun who had one of the best lines in the movie early on when she asks the guy what the meaning of life is. Her answer got my attention.

I’m sure it will be on again during the next few days, so if you have cable and have a few minutes, it’s worth the time.

Well, I have hours to log today so it’s off to do some work. Fa la la la la man.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Caulking, Cleaning, and Chaos

I think that just about covers this evening’s agenda.

Caulking will be around the bathtub, something that’s long overdue. Before it’s caulked though it will have to be cleaned – steam-cleaned. That will give me a chance to try out the new steamer that, while it ‘s been hanging around for a while, was only recently unboxed.

After cleaning the shower, and before doing the caulking, I’ll be going back to cleaning my room. The mother still has to tackle all of those dolls in there, otherwise it’s mostly some furniture dusting and floor-cleaning. Then we’ll see what else still needs doing before I tackled the bathtub.

I’m not even sure when we’re celebrating Christmas with our family. Whether it will be tomorrow night – or if it will be on Thursday. This would be good to know, since I have some cooking to do before then!

I guess it will all work out. Somehow, it always does.

Merry, Merry Madness

Once, several years ago, the mother sent me to a local mall on Christmas Eve for a last-minute gift. It took me three times as long to get in the mall lot, find a parking space, and then get off the mall parking lot as it did to dash in and get the solo gift, I vowed never to do it again.

I’ve kept my word. In fact, in the week or so before the holiday, I still don’t go near a mall. I try to not go in any stores at all during those final, frazzled days. So it was with much dismay that I realized a shopping trip was inevitable. Not at the mall, thank God, but worse still, the grocery store and Wal-Mart. The mother has been eating and drinking cleaning supplies, so I had to get more as we start to approach the home stretch. The groceries? I needed to get ingredients for the mock soufflĂ© for Christmas with the family – away, that my pure genius forgot about Thursday night. And, I got some more things for post-Christmas with family friends – home, the visit that has touched off this mad bout of cleaning.

I also had to pick up more Christmas cards at Walgreens which I’d ordered online. I thought I’d have enough, but apparently Ozzie is a more popular dude on than I gave him credit for. (He continues to get all kinds of cards from all over the country – even the world – daily. Three more came yesterday.) I’ll apologize now for the tardiness of this last batch which includes some of my local, real-life pals. I figured those would only need a day or so at most to arrive so I saved some of those for last.

Wal-Mart was the insane asylum one would expect it to be with less than two days left for shopping. I was glad to escape it. The soundtrack of screaming children put my teeth on edge. I stopped off at Walgreens to get my cards but they weren’t ready yet. The machine had broken down so I was about sixth in the queue. Great.

I went grocery shopping. Almost as maddening as Wal-Mart, but not quite. The most frustrating thing? Some of the key things I went for couldn’t be found. So, off to the grocery at the other end of the street. Things were only a little better there, but at least it wasn’t as busy.

I grabbed some fast food (pot pies at KFC) and back to Walgreens. Success! The cards were done. It was buzzing in there, too, so I was glad to make a relatively quick exit. Once in the car, I opened the box. Thank God I did. This wasn’t the design I had used before. And wait. Who ARE these people? My card doesn’t even have people. It’s a pic of Ozzie and Toby. Sh*t!

I looked at the box. Wasn’t even MY name on the box. I dashed back inside where the girl in photo apologized profusely. She’d just grabbed the wrong box. (They only had about 30 of them on the counter. Clearly, I wasn’t the only last-minute card purchaser. And, of course, they now have 10-cent prints going on. You know I’ll be all over that this week.)

The moral of this little adventure is this: It’s NOT a pretty sight out there. Get what you have to get – and only what you have to get – NOW. I suspect it’s going to get a whole lot crazier really fast.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Can’t Put A Bow on This

I tell all of the coordinators and social workers that we work with on our annual charity program that we don’t do the program for the feedback, for the heartwarming stories. And that’s true – to a point. I really don’t want to exploit the needy. That’s not what it’s all about.

As human beings though we can’t help ourselves: We want to be the fly on that wall. What happened to that carload of gifts and other items that went to that family/those senior citizens? We know we wonder. Did we really brighten someone else's holiday?

And sometimes we find out.

Sometimes, it’s an email. Sometimes, it’s a phone call. Sometimes – but less often – it’s a card or note from the recipient themselves. This is what I've learned today via phone and email:
  • A single dad and his two kids reluctantly put up a Christmas tree last week. They weren’t going to because dad didn’t want to create the expectation “that there would be anything to go under it.” They got a pleasant surprise on Friday when there was more to go under it than would fit.
  • Today, an elderly gentleman got emotional when several boxes and other items arrived with his noon meal. “I would give 10,000 kisses to them and I need to say many prayers for them in thanks,” he said of his benefactors. On Christmas Day, the ones that will truly be alone for the holiday will get a similar delivery with their meal.
  • Over the weekend, a social worker gave this account of her visit with a terminally ill grandmother and some of the grandchildren she is raising. “When I walked in with the first box of gifts, Grandma was overwhelmed and so appreciative and grateful for the one box. When I told her that there were many more to come she burst into tears. As I started bringing in all the boxes and bags of gifts, Grandma was unloading them under the tree and hanging up the stockings around the living room just in awe. A boy (7yrs.) was sitting in front of the tree staring at all the presents and I looked over at him and he had tears in his eyes as well. He looked at me and said that he must have been a really good boy this year to get all of these gifts and also said that he was not expecting there to be anything under the tree but now he really believes there is a Santa.”

    Yeah, we don’t always find out what happens with the families or seniors who come into our lives each holiday season. But it’s awfully nice when we do.

It Must Be Monday

Clearly, bus-riding on Mondays and winter weather don’t mix. This morning, my bus didn’t come.

Well of course it didn’t. Why would it? It’s Monday and it happens to be the coldest day of the year – a whopping 4 degrees with a wind chill factor of -12. Again, Mother Nature being all beoch-y on a Monday. This is starting to become a very annoying habit of hers.

Luckily, I drove to the bus station today because I have to pick up some things tonight. I figured that would save me some time tonight and some time in the cold this morning. How right I was!
The good news is that it’s supposed to warm up after today. THANK GOD!

I know I shouldn’t complain. It’s much colder in other parts of the country and some of you have snow to contend with on top of it. (That would be the last straw for me at this point. I would cry.) Then there’s the tens of thousands in the northeast who STILL don’t have power. I sure hope they can get them back online soon. It is just so miserably cold!

The house is slowly coming along. It’s hell when you’re trying to contend with tools and materials and you’re backlogged on just your general everyday stuff. I keep reminding the mother that we were waist-high in projects right up through early November. How could we be expected to remain caught up with day-to-day AND have the house immaculate? In short, the answer is we can’t. But the mother, who is a female Felix Unger when it comes to clean and neat, thinks we should be.

Me? I’m taking my everyday approach to holiday guests that I would at any other time of year. If they want to get technical about a job I did or something they think needs done, you know what? They can go home!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Frozen Tundra

The mother has ventured out into the frozen tundra. There are some things she wanted to pick up and it wasn’t stuff I could just grab, so, out she went. Not me, man. It’s too d*mn cold!

I went out to feed the birds and set a bag of trash out earlier and just about died. Any more than a minute or two out there is brutal. Poor little creatures. I feel so bad for them when it’s like this.

We’re back into the single digits after hitting a high of 16 at some point today. And the wind chill factor? It hasn’t moved above zero ALL DAY. Sounds like tomorrow is going to be just a bit warmer, but not much. And tonight is supposed to be even colder than last night. UGH! The wind is still gusting occasionally, but is slowly backing away from its constant ferocity of earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, there’s been a buzz of activity inside. We’re still cleaning. Today, I took the refrigerator apart. What fun! I also scoured the oven. (The mother is also doing some organizing and some clothes switching so that has greatly impeded progress.) And, I had to wage war with the old toilet seat to change it for the new one. You’d think it’s a quick 5- or 10-minute job, but NO. Nothing here is quick or easy. OK, almost nothing. I caught a break with the new brass door knobs that I bought for the bathroom door and installed. Didn’t even have to drill new holes or in case, even remove the old screw. Gotta love that!

In a little bit, I’m going to start carrying the trash out. It’s going to be so freakin’ cold both tonight and tomorrow, but I just don’t want to deal with the cold tomorrow any more than I have to.

So, you can just call me Na-nic of the North ‘til it warms up again – which mercifully, it’s supposed to do later in the week.

Have I mentioned how much I HATE winter?

Gone With the Wind

I’m awake only because there have been several times in the past hour that I’ve been certain that This D*mn House was coming apart at the seams. Sitting and watching The Weather Channel just did a good job of explaining why.

It’s a whopping 7 degrees. The wind is 28 mph with gusts at 42 mph. The wind chill? -12. OUCH! The projected high for today? All of 18. It could be worse. They just said the high for Chicago today would be FIVE!

On Friday afternoon, the cover to our fire pit blew away. Now, I’m afraid the fire pit itself might do the same, even though it’s weighted down with bricks. I keep peering out the windows to make sure that something we own doesn’t go scuttling down the street.

Between the wind rattling windows and beating wires against the house, and an occasional outburst from Toby the Cat, it’s been a very long night.

Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t tear any lines down or that we don’t lose anything else.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Year of the Ho

No, no. Not that Don Imus incident type. It's ho as in "Ho! Ho! Ho!" That's the chosen them for this year's Christmas wrappings.

Whether she starts off with it consciously or not, each year the mother has something of a theme to Christmas packaging. This year, it has ended up the Ho x 3 theme as I've been calling it. Take a look.

So many Hos in a row! It cracks me up.


This should be a four-letter word, shouldn't it? And noone would believe that a small house would be this much trouble.

But then there aren't that many small houses that have all the knick knacks lying about like this one.

I had to laugh. The mother spent hours cleaning all the copper in the kitchen. I always used to tell her as she would buy various pieces:"Just one more thing that you'll have to clean." And she would nod. Now she cleans it and says, "I need to get rid of some of this stuff." But doesn't.

And the shelves in the kitchen are double-loaded with glass and other goodies. It's nice stuff, some of it quite pretty, but it's a pain in the butt. Especially when it comes time to clean it all.

And that's what we're in the thick of now. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. And I hate it. I wasn't cut out for this. Remember how my only domestic quality is that I live indoors? Well, it applies 10x over here!

Wish me luck.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Door Debacle

OK. I'm exhausted. I'm sore. I'm ready to relax a bit before tearing into the house. What does this mean? Must be time for the mother to torture me in some way.

Weather-stripping. Why not?

I bought it weeks ago, never got around to it, and after peeling the bow from the wreath on the door for the jillionth time, she's now ready for it to go up. So I began doing just that.

"No, no," says the mother. "Lawrence said to put it here." Here being the inside rim where the door lays against the woodwork. That can't be right. The door won't close if I do that.

But the mother was insistent that this is where Lawrence said to put it. So I did what she said. And the door wouldn't close. Big surprise.

And I spent the next two hours tearing it back out and scraping all its little remnants off and then putting white tape over the now damaged and still very sticky surface to keep the door from sticking to it.

Tomorrow I will tackle doing it the way it should have been done to start with. Right now, I'm still tired and sore. I'm spent from the sheer frustration.

Perhaps I'll call it a very early night.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Playing Santa

They weren't going to put up a Christmas tree.

After recently losing their home in a fire and what little belongings they had to start with, the man and his two teenaged children were going to "skip" Christmas.

That's what the social worker told me today. "Bill" didn't want a tree because "he didn't want to create the expectation that there would be anything under it." Bill, a member of the working poor, can't provide enough to properly care for his disabled 19-year-old son and his 15-year-old daughter. And he was exasperated.

I'm happy to report that the social worker convinced him to put up a tree. And, in as much as I could jam into Ladybird this afternoon, there are presents to go under it. LOTS of them. And there is food. There are gift cards, cleaning supplies, cooking and kitchen supplies. In fact, between this family, and the family that my floor adopted, I couldn't fit all of it in the car! Ideally, many of the things this family finds under their tree will not just be helpful at Christmas but for some time to come.

Unfortunately, none of the good will and the warm fuzzies are doing much to soothe my aching back or throbbing feet. Oh, it was plenty worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Playing Santa is exhausting ... but damn is it good for the soul.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa – I’ve been really good this year. Ask anyone. Seriously. I’ve barely wandered away from This D*mn House at all, except to go to work – so I can buy more stuff to work on This D*mn House.

Space is tight, so I’m not asking for too many things. I wouldn’t have any place to put them, even if you did bring them. So, like me, the list will be pretty short.
  • My family has been really good the past year or two at feeding my scrapbooking addiction. If you could keep steering them that direction, it would be great. Or maybe a gift card to get some books or music. I would like that.
  • I would also like to win the Powerball jackpot, preferably on a day when it’s in the tens of millions. (Like this Saturday for instance. That would be a great way to start off 2009!) If that’s not possible, if you could put a good word in for me at work so I can continue to keep my job even in this down economy, that would be good. And since I won’t have millions to lavish on my family and friends, if you could at least do the same for them, I’d be happy.
  • Give the mother some extra added happiness and joy. She certainly deserves it. Believe me, this is a huge gift to me. There are few things I can think of that make me happier than to see her happy or genuinely enjoying something.
  • I’m not sure I believe that world peace is possible – but some peace certainly is. We live in very troubled times, so any little portions of peace – or even peace of mind – you could scatter around the globe I’m grateful for.
  • Here’s a twist: Instead of leaving something, could you please take away some of the pain and suffering? There is so much of it everywhere in both people and animals. I know we bring some of it on ourselves, but I’m tired of the innocent and defenseless getting the crap kicked out of them all the time.
  • And finally, if there’s any way at all you can manage it, I’d love to wake up to find Carter Oosterhouse under the tree. OK -- under the tree is asking for a lot. More like leave him sitting at the dining room table. That would be just fine! Mind you, nothing else would get any attention at This D*mn House, but I’m OK with that.

So Santa, I hope you can help me out here. My requests don't need too much room in your sleigh.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Appeal to the Weather Gods

I need a big favor. I need for there to NOT be ice tomorrow. Here’s why:

I’m supposed to be going in early and taking off early tomorrow so that I can make a round of deliveries for our charity program. One of our local TV stations has an alert on their Web site saying that a freezing rain advisory goes from midnight through 6 p.m. tomorrow. however says that it is in effect from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.

Here’s hoping that they’re both wrong. There’s a carload of stuff that needs to get to its final destination.

I wish I'd had my camera today. One of the floors brought me all of their stuff in a human caravan, a parade of 10-12 people all piled high or weighted down with presents! (Usually, one or two people from each floor get a cart. This way though was much more amusing!)

So, if you could appeal to the weather gods or Mother Nature or whomever you think runs that part of the show, I’d genuinely appreciate it. Doing good shouldn't be a hassle, should it?

All That Glitters

Thanks to the mother, the front door is sporting yet another new look. In spite of myself, I like it! Can you tell the difference? Here's the door before.

Notice how the leading kind of disappears into the background? That has always bugged the mother.

So she decided to do something about it. She bought this little bottle of gold leaf stuff at Michael's the other day. I had no idea what her plans were for it at the time. That's the thing about the mother, you can never be completely sure just what she'll get up to next!

No foiling, which was something I had always thought was an essential part of the leafing process, so I was quite surprised. You just brush this stuff on like regular paint.

She says it goes on easy. And I was impressed with how quickly it dried. What do you think of the end result?
At first, I wasn't real sure about it. (That's often the case. I'm weird like that.) But the minute she put this gold wreath on the door, the color seemed to leap out. I was instantly sold.

She's pleased with the final product-- and anxious to do the other side. That's going to have to wait, however, until the temp goes up a bit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last of the Holiday Display

I just realized that I never posted the last windows of the Yes, Virginia series! My bad.

Down to the Wire

If you’re still looking for Christmas gifts, I’ve got a couple of last-minute suggestions.

Since you’re running out of time, you might take Todd’s advice over at Helpful Advice for Home Construction Improvement and consider an gift certificate. You can even send one of these electronically. No gift wrap or post office line! And you’re giving a really versatile gift that any DIYer, or anyone for that matter, is sure to love.

Here’s another idea. Our friends over at One Project closer are giving away TWO $100 Home Depot cards – but you have to hurry. The contest ends TOMORROW, so if you win you have an instant gift – or plenty of time to shop for one before the big day. And with that kind of cold cash, you might even have enough to buy something for yourself, too. Here’s the rules. Blog about it and get 75 chances! (That’s what I’m doing.)

As for me, I’m still holding out for some beadboard. That’s where at least a good chunk of my gift card would go, if I were to win one. I’ve got it already for the mother’s bedroom but not for mine and redoing those two rooms are at the top of the list for next year.

So give it a try. What have you got to lose?!

Monday, December 15, 2008


I keep sayin’ that things are looking more festive and people are callin’ me on it. Where’s the photos?

Well, in all the chaos, I decided what the hell and did indeed drag out my camera. You can follow the festive as it begins to appear. Just remember, you asked for it.

Why look?! There’s a tree. (Yes, this is supposed to be one of the outside trees but it appears instead to be replacing our sad little Charlie Brown fiber-optic tree.)

The poor thing. The mother has jammed so much Victoriana onto it that it is leaning slightly to the left.

Meanwhile, things are gathering at the fireplace, too. Some nice lighted garland and two candle lights (covered by hurricane shades) brighten things up. Plus, there's Santa, a sleigh and a reindeer to get things going, along with a pair of bright brass trees.

But the real beauty here you can’t even see. It’s a lovely little cord that accommodates both the garland and the candle lights and is wired to a button that controls all three.

Push on. Push off. No unplugging everything in the universe or vice versa.

LOVE it! Just $5 at Wal-Mart.

Deja Vu -- Sort Of

I’m learning to really hate Mondays – not that they were ever my favorite day to start with. And I was a much happier person at 5:30 when I still didn’t know that the wind chill was -2. As in BELOW FREAKIN’ ZERO. I was so not cut out for cold weather.

Remember last week when I slid out with a bag of trash in each hand, skidding madly down the driveway, out of control, reminiscent of the Grinch’s wild downhill sleigh ride? That didn’t happen this week, fortunately. Not that it wasn’t slick, because it was. But at the end of whatever fell last night there was just enough of a coating of snow to give the ice-covered roadways and walkways a bit of traction. So, I looked more like an uncoordinated Dorothy Hamill, using the slick surface to my advantage, gliding in my sneakers, dragging a bag of trash in each hand along the driveway.

Cheaper trash bags wouldn’t have persevered but luckily, my Hefty, Hefty, Cinchsaks were up to the challenge. (Did I really just type that? Apparently so.)

Of course the dumbass bus driver (this HAS to be the same clown who went down the closed road TWO weeks ago and left me in the snow) tried to pass me up. Yes, here I am, covered almost as completely as any Muslim woman ever dare be, and the stupid SOB starts to DRIVE RIGHT PAST ME. I see that he is not braking, so there I am, trying to leap up and down without sliding onto my butt. He DID stop – in the next block – so I had to carefully skid down the sidewalk to get to him. The penguin march all over again.

“Didn’t know you wanted the bus,” he says as I slide onto the first step.

Really? Oh, I see, you completely missed the fact that I’m standing on a corner, bundled like a buffalo, and clutching a bus pass. And then, as you drove past me, you surely missed that Hopi rain dance I was performing to get your attention. Moron.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Very Sparkly

Looking around the house tonight, I'm reminded of one of my favorite lines in the movie Rainman. It's where Dustin Hoffman describes his potential "date" as being "very sparkly."

This is why it's important to drag out all the decorations first and get them as close to their final destinations as possible before you clean the house. There is glitter, sequins, and all manners of sparkly stuff everywhere. It's on the furniture. It's glazing the floors. It's on our clothes. It's on us.

But, we have a tree up. There are lights on the mantel. And the mother has gone all over putting a touch of holiday flowers and glitz here and there. It's starting to look quite festive.

Outside, both doors now have wreaths. In front, the bare spots between the pots have bricks in place, pots on top, each with one of the sorry ass Martha Stewart trees in it. And you know what? I think I may have to find something else to call them. They actually don't look quite so sorry ass now that they're in place -- even unlit.

Of course, we're getting freezing rain, so the mother insisted that I cover them. Yeah. Don't go there. So I put a small drawstring trash bag over each one until the weather system passes. Ideally, we'll get to finish the rest later this week.

In the meantime, it's clean, clean, clean. I, however, have to go to work tomorrow. Fun times.

Here, There, and Everywhere

When you live in a small house, storage is usually an issue. And when you have as much crap as the mother and I do, it can be a case of critical mass.

That's definitely the situation here with yesterday a day of trying to pull various decorations out of their respective places. You don't always remember where those places are. As old decos get bypassed for new ones, you have to get creative on where to keep some of them. So, a good chunk of yesterday was devoted to pulling things out. It was kind of like a mini-Christmas because we found some stuff packed that even we'd forgotten about!

Yesterday was a day to shift things, repair stuff, and do an initial round of decorating.

As a result, It's starting to look a little festive around here. Except for outside. I'm not sure when we're supposed to do that. The wind is roaring at 20-30 mph and has been since yesterday. While it's been 50-ish temp wise, it keeps sprinkling. Between the wet and the wind, the temp doesn't feel all that warm. So, we still don't have anything outside except for the wreath on the front door. (I managed to assemble and conceal two battery pack light sets on it, but I'm not holding out much hope it will work very well in the long-term.)

So, now I'm getting ready to dig out the rest of our holiday stuff. That means taking my life into my hands to unload the laundry room storage closet. It is the one significant piece of inside storage space that we have, outside the new closet in the family room. As you might imagine then, it's jammed full.

If you don't hear from me in the next 24, send a search party ...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Morning Inspiration

I've already been out and about today, trying to get some supplies before tomorrow night's projected ice storm begins. Oh, yeah. Lookin' forward to that.

Now that I've had a little breakfast, I'm getting some really grand inspiration in a truly awesome way: an episode of Carter Can. In my book, that man is proof of what God is capable of on a really good day. And he even comes with his own tool belt.

I did manage to get everything into the house (which was something akin to a Herculean effort after yesterday's shopping expedition and this morning's follow-up blow through to get extra because of the weather.

I'm tired, because Toby decided it would be a good idea to start screaming at 4, though I didn't put him to bed until just before 3 a.m. But, I'm ready to get the madness going.

But right now, I'm going to finish my soda and soak up a few more minutes of this spectacular eye candy ...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Merry Christmas to Me

Wow! OK. I whined about shopping when there is so much to do and this place is a disaster, but ... it was such a good day. Seriously. If it had been a little warmer and a little less windy, it might have qualified for perfection.

The mother found almost everything she was looking for. And, she got me some Christmas, too! I got a new coat, two new jackets, and a new sweater. I didn't need either of the jackets, but I really liked the one and the mother insisted on getting me the other one, too. Pretty awesome for a single stop.

And for me, I got to go to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR stores with scrapbooking stuff. Actually, now that I think of it, FIVE. I was in my kind of heaven. I got some neat gifts for both me and others, as well as a new case to cart all my supplies around in. (Don't worry, MG, it won't take up much space, I promise.)

There were tons of people out. You'd have thought it was already the weekend, not a weekday! But, I guess a lot of people were enjoying a day off work just like me. And before making our final stop, we dined at Lotawata Creek, one of my favorite places, and someplace we hadn't been in ages.

Just a little while ago, I got an extra added bonus. The mother, who talks about me to other people but rarely ever says anything complimentary to me (genetic: Young Tom was the very same way) gave me a nice stunner. We were watching a Christmas special on HGTV with some of the various shows' hosts sharing some of their holiday celebrations. At the end, Lisa LaPorta (of Designed To Sell) was showing off a special decorating surprise she had done for her mom.

"I've got the best daughter in the whole world," says Lisa's mom.

And out of the blue the mother says, "Unh-uh. I've got the best daughter in the world."

Like I said, very nearly a perfect day.

Call the Red Cross

We need to declare This D*mn House a disaster. The house looks like a cyclone hit, so what should we be preoccupied with? Decorations!

Well, of course. Isn’t that the most important thing when one’s abode is jam-packed with crap and in need of a seasonal cleaning?

Chalk it up to that old somewhat altered analogy: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

That’s right, The clock is ticking and the mother wants to … go shopping. It’s a vacation day for me (thanks to our recently added day after Christmas holiday) so why not?

I’ve always had a hard time getting her priorities and God help me, I’ll never understand the way she works at things. She picks the oddest things to obsess about when faced with an overwhelming task. Stuff I would no more give a second thought to, until maybe, and that’s a big maybe, everything else was already in place.

Me? I’d be ready to dive in and start the pitching, organizing, and cleaning. Granted, this weekend is supposed to be unseasonably warm, so we DO need to hit the outside while we can, but …

It’s not that she’s a procrastinator – that’s my department. She and I just work completely different. Where I like to work on one, maybe two things, get those done and then move onto the next, the mother wants to tear the whole thing apart all at once and work on EVERYTHING! Complete and utter chaos. She always gets it done, mind you. It’s just a matter of approaches, I guess. I prefer the less chaotic route.

For now, I’m just shaking my head and playing along. I know it will all get done. I don’t know how. I’m pretty sure about when – about 5 minutes before the guests hit the front door if history is any indication.

But today, I’m not going to worry about it. So, let the fun begin.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Traipsing Through Time

I’m envious of all the housebloggers who are busily – and quite happily – tracing the roots of their respective homes. It’s a time-intensive labor of love that can be just as powerful as all of the work we do to make these properties home.

I want to see if I can look up the daughter of This D*mn House’s original owners. I’d love to have some pictures of the house in its early days. I had the pleasure of meeting them a few years after buying This D*mn House. What great people. Sadly, I think they both might have died since then.

I’m sure Jayne over at Dainty Digs would love some original photos, too, as she continues to unravel the history leading back to her Missouri place to put with all the information she has learned about the property its built on.

Crossing the river into Illinois and heading north, Denise at The Bungalow Chronicles is hot on the trail of her home’s history and its neighboring properties that once included a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

And while he may not be tracing the deeds and plat records, Jason got the makings of a pretty fabulous gift, courtesy of the previous owners, by what pieces of his house they left in the basement.

And a while back, Liz and Joey at A Constructed Life discovered that perhaps one of their previous owners never left.

So check out their stories -- and get ready to shuffle some records and see what you can find out about your house.

2 Weeks … And Counting

With a little over two weeks before This D*mn House is on display, the mother is busy making lists and menus. And being preoccupied with the stupidest sh*t. (See, I told you there’d be fights. They haven’t happened yet, but they’re brewing.) And she’s already changing plans for the little trees, to plans that I don’t like at all. But that’s not set in stone.

We’ve yet to figure out where and when we’re having Christmas with our family. Whether it’s Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, or at my godparents’ or at their daughter’s. (I’m hoping for the godparents’ ‘cause it’s closer, but only by about 15 minutes.)

I’m really glad that I’m off tomorrow. Even after yesterday’s impromptu day off. I still feel pretty crappy. Today, to go along with my aching jaws, I have a headache and sinuses in full revolt. (They’re paying me back for being flat and virtually upside down for so long yesterday – with interest.) As a result, I’ve opted to skip work’s Christmas party tonight.

I guess I’ll end up going to the grocery store after all, though probably not until much later tonight. We are nearly out of food and I’m not sure what I’ll feel like eating tonight. (I stuck with soup yesterday.) Here’s hoping I’m willing and able to eat something else.

But first, I have to make it through today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Than I Bargained For

Why is it that when you expect mundane and regular you get extraordinary -- but not in a good way? That's what happened to me today.

I had what was supposed to be a routine dental visit. I lost a filling Saturday night. I waned to get it put back. Should be a quick in and out, right? Since I tried to get the soonest appointment I could, and one that would have the least impact on work, I got an early morning appointment. Got in at 8:30. That gave me a little time to sleep in today AND time to drop in the nearby Kmart and pick up a few things they had on sale. (Including more of the garland the mother bought yesterday as decorating now has become a priority.)

Made it out of the store and into the dentist's office right on time. First, I had to fill out a myriad of forms because 1) my dentist is now gone and 2) I hadn't been there in a while. It was ridiculous. The form I filled out contained the same information as the one they had on file and handed to me. The only difference was I had new insurance. Shouldn't copying the card take care of that? No.

So, I was then greeted by a dental assistant and then a dental hygienist and finally, the dentist. Did I want 56 different treatments? No. I wanted my tooth filled. With it being December though, I still had a full year's dental benefits to spend. Let's just say that I put a nice dent in it and that my Christmas to me is in my mouth.

To do the procedure that was recommended as step 1 for a permanent solution to the tooth I wanted fixed, required numbing my ENTIRE FACE. So many drugs, and hitting a major nerve directly, caused me some grief. My blood pressure shot up and then plummeted. Ultimately, I got very ill and they kept me for a while to make sure I was OK.

One of the shots they gave me, the one that hit the nerve directly, was like getting an electric shock that ran from jaw to forehead.. That is what sent my heart racing. I know it is. Of course, she only told me this AFTER the shot: "Sometimes when you hit a nerve in more 'petite' people, it's like a live wire."

Gee. Thanks for the warning.

So, more than three hours later, I was wrapped up. After, of course, getting an assessment for more work that would cost me nearly half of a really nice used car.

So I get the joy of going back next week to see if everything went well -- and to pick up something for Part II of my treatment.

Oh. Joys.

The Pros and Cons

In a strange holiday twist, instead of traveling a nearly 100-mile roundtrip to celebrate Christmas with some family friends either immediately before or after the holiday, they are coming to see us. This is a classic good news, bad news scenario.

The good news: I won’t have to drive nearly 100 miles in the same day, some on very sucky roads in the middle of nowhere, and in God knows what kind of weather, with the mother critiquing my driving the whole trip. I also won’t have two rounds of packing and unpacking the car to contend with.

The bad news: Our house is a disaster. Between all of the projects in progress, things are upside down. The dining room looks like Santa’s sleigh crash landed there with the crash going through the floor and into the family room downstairs where everything else spilled out. Plus, the family room is littered with many of the supplies for all of said projects including beadboard, molding, chair rail, wallpaper, shelving, paint, bedding, and curtains. Oh. And of course there’s those three carved out hunks in the ceiling still to be repaired.

The even worse news: The mother is nit-picky on a good day. When people are coming to the house, it must look like it is ready to be photographed for a home design magazine. (Really, I’m not kidding or exaggerating. She was about to die this summer with my friends coming inside and seeing everything scattered with all the work outside under way.) I know they don’t care; they know I don’t care, but still.

Even further bad news: This means there will be a litany of to-dos that would kill a mere mortal. There will be fights. (Oh, and they will be beauties too, borne out of exhaustion and frustration.) And it’s going to really suck to try to do all this in just over two weeks. And when I say “all this” I’m not even sure what “all” even is. Frankly, I’m afraid to find out.

But that brings us back to some good news: When the mother is on a mission, she is unstoppable. (This must be genetic; sound like anyone else?) So, some of the things that I think should have been done weeks ago, that she’s been talking about doing for weeks, will actually get done.

Bad news: Some of the things that I’ve been talking about doing for weeks – I’ll actually have to do. Better news: I have some extra days off and after next week, actual work should be scarce. I’m hoping that reality will actually kick in at some point though I’m not holding my breath.

The best news: This is happening on the 27th. I am off on the 29th. I work the 30th and part of the 31st – and then I don’t come back ‘til Jan. 5! That gives me some time to both enjoy a relatively straight house and recover.

I’m going to need it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The DIY 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
A new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the second day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
Two Bosch jigsaw blades – and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the third day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
Three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
Four Lowe’s gift cards, three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
Four Lowe’s gift cards, three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
Six feet of molding, FIVE POWER TOOLS!!!
Four Lowe’s gift cards, three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
Seven cans of caulk, six feet of molding, FIVE POWER TOOLS!!!
Four Lowe’s gift cards, three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
Eight bags of rock, seven cans of caulk, six feet of molding, FIVE POWER TOOLS!!!
Four Lowe’s gift cards, three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
Nine cans of Behr paint, eight bags of gravel, seven cans of caulk, six feet of molding, FIVE POWER TOOLS!!!
Four Lowe’s gift cards, three fence panels, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
10 fence panels, nine cans of Behr paint, eight bags of gravel, seven cans of caulk, six feet of molding, FIVE POWER TOOLS!!!
Four Lowe’s gift cards, three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
11 pallets of brick, 10 fence panels, nine cans of Behr paint, eight bags of gravel, seven cans of caulk, six feet of molding, FIVE POWER TOOLS!!!

Four Lowe’s gift cards, three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, This D*mn House gave to me:
12 bags of mortar, 11 pallets of brick, 10 fence panels, nine cans of Behr paint , eight bags of gravel, seven cans of caulk, six feet of molding, FIVE POWER TOOLS!!!

Four Lowe’s gift cards, three paint brushes, two Bosch jigsaw blades, and a new outlet to plug in my Christmas tree.

Delayed Decorating

Today’s scene is a lot different than yesterday’s, that’s for sure! Where it was ice, today it’s only rain as it’s about 10 degrees warmer already this morning. We’re going over 50 again today, but it’s supposed to rain on and off throughout the day, with temperatures plummeting between afternoon and evening.

Snow is on tap for tonight, though they say it’s not supposed to amount to much. I guess we’ll see. All I know is that if it doesn’t dry up any before it hits the low of 26 this evening, it’s going to be a skating rink again.

So that’s put a damper on outdoor decorating. I still need to get a smaller outdoor cord (I’m thinking 25 feet, like one I saw in this week’s Target ad) and I’ll need to get some of those clips, too, to see if I can tuck it up along the bottom of the siding as the mother doesn’t want it on the ground. That will get my two lighted trees hooked up on the porch.

While I unloaded the extra bricks we bought last weekend – so I could make squares in the two bare middle patches along the front to match the ones currently on either sides – they were frozen in yesterday’s adventures in ice and now they’re in small pools of water. Then, I need to unload the marble chip that will be placed in pots to keep those sorry ass Martha Stewart trees in place. Those won’t be lit. Then, those pots will go on those squares.

And then, there’s even something else to get lit up beneath the carport. But all that stuff is contingent on the weather. It has to dry out and warm up a little first. Luckily, that is supposed to happen later in the week – and I’m off on Friday!

The problem child then in this little misadventure are two wreaths. The mother wanted to light them with battery-pack lights. We have some tiny, tiny sets of which you’d need at least two for each wreath. We found some slightly bigger light packs for $1/set. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for.

Because they take two C batteries, the packs that energize them are heavier than hell. That’s going to make them really tough to attach to the wreath and the complicate getting the wreath to hang on the door. Not all the lights work. And, if you jiggle the poorly-constructed powerbox too much, none of them will work. Frustrating.

I guess I have to be a victim of Walgreens then and their prices, as that’s the only place I’ve seen the other tiny light sets (that take AA batteries) like we had before. At least I know those work and they’ll be lots easier to manage.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Schizophrenic Weather

With the temperature at a balmy 52 degrees, it’s hard to imagine the slip-n-slide that was my driveway this morning. It’s long been said that if you don’t like St. Louis weather, hang around an hour or two – it’s bound to change. This is definitely a place where you can see all four seasons within the same day!

Luckily, the closer we got to St. Louis this morning, the better the road conditions got. This was due in part to the salt trucks that were out on the major roadways. In fact, as we crossed the bridge, I noticed the water beginning to puddle. That’s always a good sign. My walk to the office was a whole lot different than my penguin march from home to the bus stop!

There’s supposed to be more rain tonight, but luckily, warmer temperatures through tomorrow. So no ice. Maybe.

At least not until tomorrow night – when it may snow.

What Is It About Mondays?

There’s something about Monday morning that seems to bring out the worst in Mother Nature lately.

Last week, it was snow showers. Today, the ante is up: ice. I didn’t know this until I went to take out the trash about an hour ago. The concrete at the back door is fine. That’s where the difficulty comes in because it catches you completely off guard. Walk out the door. Fine. Walk up the three steps where the back door leads out to the driveway and – not so much. Whooooooosh. You and the two bags of trash that you’re carrying are now on a slalom course.

Or at least that’s what happened to me. I might have qualified for Olympic competition with that performance! Even the landscape rocks were covered with a nasty sheet of ice so they weren’t much help. Thankfully – if not rather oddly – I managed to not fall. When I left for work, I didn’t even attempt my brick walkway. The blanket of ice draped across it shone like diamonds. No way, man.

Instead, I edged myself across the yard which was crunchy with the stuff, willed myself across the few feet of sidewalk, and marched, penguin-style, across four lanes of icy roadway. I continued this laughable procession down the street to the corner.

People are, remarkably, taking their time. There is none of the typical pealing out that I see every day. No one cruising ahead of passing cars. No. It’s slow and steady all the way.

The bus. Well, it came, a marked improvement over last Monday. Even so, it’s creeping along. We’ve already slid through two stop signs. I can hardly wait to see what bridge conditions will be like. And even better, what will that block be like between the stop and the office?

Luckily, most of it is at least partially covered, so I guess I can always hold out hope that it isn’t like my driveway.

I sure hope these temperatures start rising a little faster. We’re supposedly headed for about 50 today, which is great. It’s just not doing us much good right now.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Clean Is A Relative Term

OK. It's not immaculate by any stretch of the imagination, but my bedroom is at least 100 times cleaner than it was before I started yesterday. The mother has a bunch of crap (crap to me, doll collection to her) that has to be cleaned and dusted, but hey, that's not my job. Just because you stick it in my room, doesn't make it my responsibility, right? That's my story anyway.

But, the good news is that I got eight loads of laundry done, 80 percent of my clothes put away (except for my sweaters which are hanging up downstairs), ridded myself of the bag of summer clothes, cleaned and put away my shoes, and thoroughly cleaned down my bed, vanity and wardrobe. And the floor. We don't want to talk about the fact that I used THREE Swiffer sweeper wipes in that tiny little room before I even ran the sweeper and mopped.

No. We won't go there.

And now, I'm very tired. And already, it's back to the grind tomorrow. How'd that happen?

Never Forget

A date that will live in infamy -- that's how then President Franklin Roosevelt described this date in 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It's an important date for no other reason than the more than 2,400 lives (both military and civilian) that were lost that day. It's also important because it marked the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II and nearly five years that would forever change the face of our nation.

I can't help but wonder if the young family that built This D*mn House weren't huddled around a radio, listening to President Roosevelt's now famous address 67 years ago. Maybe even in this very room. (I kind of get a chill imagining it.)

I read an article that said the Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association has lost nearly 3/4 of its once 20,000-strong membership. That's due largely to the fact that while there are still 2.6 million World War II veterans living, they die at the rate of 851 per day. That means that 17 more of those Vets have died just since I started typing this.

Do you have a family member or friend who served in World War II? Don't let their service be forgotten. Go to this site and enter their stories and photos. You can check out some of those that are already there, too. (Young Tom tried to enlist, but at 42 -- younger than I am now -- he was deemed too old.)

We're losing too many of these brave men and women every day. Never forget what they did for us. Ever.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Room the Landfill

It's really embarrassing, the things we allow to let go. Unfortunately, when you're trying to both work on and live in a house, it happens. My fellow DIY-ers know what I mean.

And it's just incredibly hard to work full-time and then some, plus find time for DIY projects, and all the while try to keep up with the requirements of daily life.

While there is always something getting cleaned, scoured or sanitized in this house everyday (sometimes multiple times a day) I'm ashamed to admit that I don't remember the last time I cleaned my room. Oh, the sweeper has been run and a duster has been pushed past the bare spots on any piece of furniture, and the sheets get changed regularly, but that's been about it.

For the past few weeks, I've had a bag of clean summer clothes sitting in the middle of the floor. To say that's inconvenient in a room the size of a postage stamp is a gross understatment. Shoes are lying around everywhere. While I'm usually good about laundry, not so for the past week or so. It's scattered around on the floor because I never got a bag out for it. And for months -- yes months -- a pile of coupons, receipts, tags, and God only knows what have been accumulating atop my vanity. So much so, that there was almost no wood visible.

Believe me, I'm appropriately ashamed. But, I started doing something about it earlier. I went through all the receipts, coupons and other assorted debris and rid myself of whatever wasn't useful. Then, I tackled clothes. I started by getting out the summer clothes and selecting those clothes to keep in a bottom drawer for those "unseasonable" days that are likely to occur between now and April when I'll trade my winter wardrobe for cooler clothing.

Then, I sorted and bagged up my laundry since wash is on tomorrow's to-do list. Next, I'll strip my bed, give the furniture a good dusting and then run the sweeper and mop the floor.

So now we come to the point where I swear that I will never let it get this out of control again.

A New Neighbor?

It wouldn't be too bad outside -- except for the 20-25 mph winds. It's very pleasant otherwise.

The mother and I went shopping last night. I found a couple things por moi, as well as some gifts. Very fun though exhausting. We didn't get home until after 11 and I didn't go to bed until 3! That means I'd been up for nearly 22 hours. No wonder I was late to rise today and then went BACK TO BED for a few more hours. Slacker.

When I finally did get up, I busied myself with some of the seemingly endless household chores like trash, dishes, recycling, and pets. While I was out feeding the birds, the mailman came. "That's a nice house, isn't it?" he asked, pointing at the house for sale across the street.

"Yeah. It's nice enough," says I. And it is a nice enough house for a rather non-descript brick ranch.

Turns out the mailman's daughter has been through it several times recently, and finally made an offer on it. She hasn't heard anything yet, but the mailman says she's hopeful. "You might be neighbors," he says as he handed me my mail.

And we just might be. I noticed that the neighbors were over there earlier, with multiple vehicles, clearing stuff from the garage. So, maybe there are new neighbors on the way.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rude Awakening

Yesterday morning, the phone rang before 5 a.m. That’s a full 30 minutes before I’d planned to get up. Even so, I flew out of bed. Calls at that hour aren’t usually good ones.

The mother got it on the second ring. She was downstairs, apparently wrangling with Christmas gifts, so I didn’t hear the conversation. As I flew down the basement stairs, I heard the phone settle back into its cradle. The mother heard me coming. (People in Cincinnati probably heard me coming; I was moving kinda fast and trying to not trip over the dog, the cat, their respective paraphernalia, or the mother’s wrapping remnants as I ran.)

“It was that silly old woman again,” says the mother as I hit the last step. Then she proceeded to relay their brief conversation to me. “I told her that I was already awake, but that she woke my daughter up.”

This morning, another silly old woman woke me up at 4:30. Only this silly old woman lives at This D*mn House and is more commonly known as the mother.

I kept hearing this strange noise, but trying to go back to sleep anyway. Screeeeeech. Thunk. Thunk.

Finally, I couldn’t take it. I got up and asked the mother: “WHAT is that NOISE?!”

“I guess it’s me trying to tape up this box,” came the answer. OK. Fine. But WHY at 4 freakin’ 30 A.M.?

“I couldn’t sleep,” came the next answer.

Oh yeah? Well that makes two of us.

Sometimes, Life Sucks

There’s a grandmother who doesn’t live that far from me. I don’t know her name. I don’t know how old she is. But I know that this grandmother is dying. I know that she is suffering. And I know that after she is gone, four little children will continue to suffer on her behalf.

This grandmother is raising four grandchildren – ages 2 to 12 – while simultaneously battling both bone and breast cancer. Even as she prepares for a second mastectomy in the months ahead, her prognosis is not good. This may very well be her last holiday season.

The good news, as if there can be much in a situation this grave, is that her little family is among those to benefit from our office’s holiday charity program. Why, you may ask, is that good news? Well, I just happen to work with not only some of the smartest and most dedicated people in the business, but many of them just happen to have hearts of gold, too. Several of them have been touched just as deeply as I have by the tragic plight of this family.

One colleague has asked what, if anything, we can do for grandma. I have repeatedly tried to pry something out of the social worker that we can do just for her, but all she wants is some new clothes and toys for the children. (Well, she’ll be getting that in abundance. Plus, there will be lots of groceries and cleaning supplies as well as gift cards for whatever we don’t get that she may need. We can’t heal her, but boy can we make sure she gets what she has asked for those kids.)

This colleague and her family have made helping this family and some of the other sad cases that we’re helping, how they will celebrate their Christmas. “My family doesn’t really need anything and we’re so blessed,” she said. “We just think it’s more important to help those who aren’t so lucky.” I nearly wept.

I’ll admit, I was worried about our program this year. Even at a big company with many employees who generally make a good living. I was afraid that because each of us is feeling the economy’s squeeze in a variety of ways, and because this effort was quick on the heels of a hugely successful United Way campaign, that people would just deem it too much. It would be more than they could do.

I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Nearly half of the gift tags for our floor’s tree were gone before they were even put up. Gifts are already piling up in a corner of my office. And a handful of my colleagues have simply handed me money. “Get whatever we need,” one said.

I even got an email this week from a contractor – someone who isn’t really a company employee, doesn’t even work in the office – asking if he could contribute to the program.

Some of the other floors are moving a little more slowly while others are going about as well as ours. I have complete faith that by the 18th, when the program wraps up, we’ll have what we’ve asked for. And probably more than that. How can I be so sure? I think another colleague said it best.“There’s an awful lot of need out there,” he said. “I think that just makes people want to give that much more.”

My colleagues already are proving him so right.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sound Advice in Uncertain Times

I think we’ve all been bombarded with bad news lately. The economy. Plunging home values. The shrinking job market. Violence at home and abroad. It’s virtually inescapable.

If you’re trying to sell your house, the news is likely to remain bad, at least for a while. But, if you’re planning to stay put or are mulling whether to sink some dollars into your current address with an eye to a future sale, now may be the time to stop thinking and start doing.

I came across this article in Money which I think really spells out the good, the bad and the ugly of investing in projects in your home. It talks about how, with other big projects put on hold indefinitely, homeowners are likely to find contractors more readily available – and at palatable rates! Plus, the costs for many building materials are currently on the decline. Because I already have a handyman, that’s music to my ears.

The article is surrounded by a variety of other tips and tools, including a “renovation wizard” that helps guesstimate what kind of return your project could generate.

Some really good information just when we need it most!

A Warm Bus on a Cold Day

Last night’s rain and snow wreaked havoc on drivers in the metro area. Every newscast was filled with reports of major ramps or arteries that had been closed. The dusting of snow wasn’t the problem, it was the frigid temperatures that caused ice to form on the thoroughfares.

This morning it’s about 20 degrees but the windchill is less than half that. Brrrr.

I gave myself an extra few minutes, first, because I wasn’t sure how the car would be. I expected a heavy layer of ice on the windows, but it was minimal. Second, I wasn’t sure how the roads would be, but they were OK.

I’ve got the car because tonight S and I will go grocery shopping. I’ve been staring at my list, wondering which thing we need that’s not on it. Do you do that? I do it all the time. Of course, I never realize what’s missing until I get home and unpack all the groceries. Then, and only then, does recall of the elusive item emerge.

Driving across town, I got to see a bunch of houses in their holiday finery, including my favorite of the triplets. (They’ve got a neon Santa at the edge of the yard, otherwise I think the decos are nice.) I need to grab some photos.

Right now though I’m going to sit back and crank the iPod and revel a little in the warmth of the bus.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Window No. 3

Continuing to share photos of the "Yes, Virginia ..." display in the windows at Macy's, we now come to the one I love. The family in the parlor in Window No. 1 is second only to this.

It must harken back to my old newspaper days. While the buildings I worked in during my 12-year print career were never this pretty some of them were from this era.

And come to think of it, so was some of the equipment I had to work on ...

DO NOT Go to Hallmark!

Or, at least don’t go without either a thick wallet or a strong resolve. Hallmark always has cute stuff for the holidays, but this year I think they’ve kicked it into overdrive. In fact, I can’t recall a year in recent memory where there have been so many cute things all at once.

The mother and I went to our local store last night for a few cards – and spent an hour looking at all the goodies before we even cracked open a single card! We came home with some, too. (Yeah, my resolve is weak even if my wallet isn’t that thick.)

If you’ve got someone on your list that you have to regularly do a hand-smack on to keep them out of their gifts, you’ll love this “peek buster” bag which can help you out. It sounds an alarm when the bag is disturbed. And if you want to send a very special message, they even have recordable cards with music!

You can get a special deal on this adorable lighted, musical gingerbread house (and we did – for a gift) and this snowman globe was cute, too, though I could resist him. You may not be able to!

But my favorite thing – which I had to have – I can’t even find on their site. It’s a collection of tap buttons (think of Staples’ Easy button). Some play music. Mine? It’s the “Naughty or Nice” version. Push it and Santa give his personal assessment of your behavior for the year. It’s too d*mn cute and is now on my desk where some of my coworkers are sure to test it out before the day is over.

So, be warned. I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg of the adorable holiday cuteness that awaits you inside Hallmark!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesday ToolTalk: Cool Tools

I don’t get to watch TV very often. It’s always on, mind you, I’m just usually doing five other things at the time, so occasionally, I listen.

But that wasn’t the case over the holiday weekend. DIY was having a Cool Tools marathon. I love that show, but I try not to tune in too very often because, well, tools being an addiction of mine, it’s not always financially healthy if you know what I mean.

But I watched a few back-to-back episodes and then caught a few more periodically before the weekend passed. During that time, I came up with what I think are some fantastic gift ideas. So, for the next few weeks, I’ll share some Cool Tools that made me stop what I was doing and take notice. The best part about this batch: they’re under $100! And, other than bargains, what do we love at This D*mn House? Multi-functional! Check these out.

Knee blades. ($89.99) All I want to know is “Where were these things when I was putting in the laminate floor last year?!” Oh. My. God. And who says you can’t have fun while you work? They are literally knee pads on wheels! I spent more than a week scooting across the floor between tearing up the carpet, removing all the associated nails and staples, and then putting in the new floor. Tell me these couldn’t have made that job easier. You can even use these to scrub and wax the floor or wash your car.

Knee Blades can be used in many professions such as painting, plumbing, mechanics, construction, electrical, maintenance … so it’s a gift that could make someone’s day job roll along a lot more smoothly!

Fast Cap 3rd Hand. ($35-$40/each) – I’ve always thought that having just two hands was a serious design flaw. This product helps take care of that. It’s a handy dandy pole that telescopes from 5 to 12 feet. It can be used to hold molding, ceiling tiles, or cabinets in place, apply pressure to glued down flooring, secure drywall, or hold up backdrops for photos. Very versatile and compact. I think they’re something that should be bought in pairs, too. Make sure you check out Amazon as they had a good price on them.

No Ticket Required

As I was walking to the bus last night, I spied a young family checking out the Macy's Christmas window display. It was a couple and a little girl casually strolling around the building.

I couldn't hear what the little girl was saying, but she was chattering in a high-pitched voiced a mile a minute. Maybe 5 or 6, she was pointing frantically, skipping back and forth in front of each window. She would look at each of her parents individually and sometimes tap on the glass to get them to acknowledge something she had noticed in the scene. It was a delight to see.

And it occurred to me that I hadn't continued to share photos from the display that I'd promised back with the first window. So, here are some shots from Window 2.