Thursday, July 31, 2008

Something Is Missing

Something is definitely missing, and I finally figured out what: July! Where the hell did July go?! Wasn’t it just the summer solstice about five minutes ago?

Ever since I was a kid, summer was pretty much over after my birthday. And it has come and gone and now the whole month is ending! How did that happen?! Tell me I’m not the only one for whom the summer just sped by like a NASCAR racer around the track.

I’m starting to feel the pinch of the summer wrap-up, though I’m hoping that the weather will hold through much of October. (After all, if Mother Nature hadn’t been crying her eyes out every other minute since March, I’d have 75 percent of my outside stuff DONE already.) I feel good about what I have been able to accomplish so far this summer, but as we go hurtling towards fall, I’m getting a little nervous.

I wasn’t able to reach Lawrence today; I’ll try again tonight. I need to get on his schedule to get the last two panels of fence up and so that he can get the rails/posts cut for the porch. That way, the mother can paint them before he assembles them. And has she got big plans for painting! She’s got: the foundation of the house; the porch railing, more gingerbread than I want to talk about (because after it‘s painted, guess who gets to install it?), and whatever boards I get to repair the shed temporarily until we can replace it. And those are just the highlights of OUTSIDE.

Inside … nope, I’m not going there yet. My head has exploded already!

So, to console myself about all the work ahead, I went on the hunt for a third photo of Ozzie to submit. And, it is, of course this one! How could I have forgotten about it?! That was my other missing thing for the day.

I really love this shot. This is the view I get when I come home each night. So this one HAS to get submitted. OK, all done with cute now for a while anyway, I promise. Thanks for indulging me!

Calendar Dog

WARNING: If you aren't in the mood for cute, cuddly, and adorable, stop reading now. And don't look at the photos!

My friends at YorkieTalk are putting together their 2009 calendar. So, they've asked their donating members to submit some photos for consideration. I think they're choosing five photos per month to use. So, I have to send in some of Ozzie. I know I'm biased but I think he's one of the cutest things ever on four legs.

You can submit up to three. Well, here's TWO that I know I'm going to send. Haven't worked out a third one yet.

Sorry for the dripping in cuteness entry. Couldn't help myself. They'll get thousands of entries, no doubt, because Yorkies are, too adorable. But whether he gets chosen or not, I think he's calendar material.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Powerball went unclaimed again Saturday night. That puts tonight’s jackpot at $75 million. Million. M + illion, 75 times. Gulp.

That’s a figure that has almost too many zeros in it for me to contemplate. It’s fun though to think of all the things you would do, all the things you could do, with that kind of money. Here’s one thought: You could buy this house outright. It was the most expensive ever put on the market until these babies jumped on the bandwagon and passed it up.

Even though it has its own moviehouse, bowling alley, and car collection (vintage Corvettes), it’s a little too much the Flintstones meets the Jetsons for my taste. So, of course, I’d have to remodel. Just think of all the tools you could buy!

I think I could qualify for a home equity loan to cover it …

And you know all that celebrity spending? The $10,000+ handbags and multi-million-dollar parties? Well, here’s some folks who don’t have to dream about having that much money. They already do. But you won’t see them turning loose of their cash for such frivolities any time soon.

Still, I’m thinking this set from “the other half” can’t be living too badly.

Summer of Bus

I’m probably jinxing myself by saying it, but I’ve had a pretty good track record lately with bus detours. So much so, that for this week at least, I am getting picked up practically in front of my house in the morning and dropped off across the street at night. The pickup is just for this week, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

It’s annoying the hell out of the driver though. L is definitely among the best of them. The detour is making her late every day and she hates it. The rain that was supposed to show up last night arrived just as I was leaving this morning. This distressed L who was stuck on the community college lot awaiting transfers that didn’t come. She told her sup this morning: “I have got to go. Not only am I late, I’ve got people waiting on me – and they’re standing in the rain.”

At night, we have M. Doesn’t matter what traffic is like at night, M gets us out of downtown. She swings that bus around with precision. She scared me a little at first, but I have come to respect her aggressive approach to the road as well as her sense of humor. Because of the detour, I get to stay on her bus at night and still end up across the street. When she dropped me off last night, she queried: “Is that your house?” pointing at This D*mn House as she pulled to the curb. I nodded.

“I like that little house,” she said. “That’s a nice porch. Is that what you’ve been doing?” I think she heard me talking to Teri, a fellow bus rider who I call “bus mother” because she watches for me every night and wonders when I’m not there.

“Yes, ma’am,” says I. M’s jaw dropped. “Giiiiiirl, please. You work in an office, don’t you?”

Yeah. Sometimes.

These ladies are both true gems. I hate to see the driver switch come, and it’s not far away, meaning both L and M will move on to other routes. In spite of the occasional bus without A/C and some oftentimes very stinky passengers, they’ve made it a mostly smooth ride.

It’s been a really good summer of bus.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Some Home Maintenance Basics

Self-sufficiency is highly under-rated in today’s society. There are so many things we can do ourselves, but instead, we look to others to take care of it for us. I know this is true when I hear statements like: “I don’t know how to change a fuse.” (Honest to God, true story.)

Seriously? If you can write a mortgage check, you can change a fuse. (And if you can’t write a mortgage check, you’re beyond my help.) Much in the same way that I don’t think you should be able to drive a car unless you can pump gas and change a tire, I think there should be some simple basics to home-owning, too.

Here are three that you need to get familiar with. Be their friend. They can get you out of a jam, save you some serious damage, and maybe even save you some money, too.

Fuse Box – Know where it is. Know what kind of fuses you need and keep extras on hand. (Ideally, in an easy-to-find-with-a-flashlight location.) Most boxes have an area that you can attach a label to that tell what fuse runs which room, section, or appliance. This is great information to have when the lights are out.

Shut-off Valves – The late Tim Russert told a story he had gotten in response to his book “Big Russ and Me” from a woman who said that as a child, she was embarrassed by her plumber father. Abridging profusely: One day, the phone rings and one of her not-so-nice school chums, the progeny of a wealthy lawyer, needs help because a broken pipe is flooding their house. The woman’s father goes to the house and she goes along. Her dad asks where the shut-off valve is and the lawyer says, “I don’t know.” Plumber dad finds it, fixes the problem and saves the house. Lawyer is grateful to plumber dad. When they leave, plumber dad tells daughter: “That was one dumb lawyer.” Well, yeah. If you have a sink fixture or a commode that goes haywire, these little handles (metal or plastic, usually mounted at the fixture’s connection to the water source) are lifesavers. But, sometimes these can break, so it’s good to know where the main shut-off valve is as well.

Furnace Filter – I once heard someone ask: “You’re supposed to change a furnace filter?” There’s an HVAC man’s dream. Filters come in an assortment of sizes, so know yours. And don’t buy the cheap ones. While they will work, there’s some side benefits to the pleated, name-brand kind. (This is particularly true if you have pets or a smoker in the house. Me, I’m a Filtrete girl.) Since the filter is housed between your heating/cooling unit and the blower, if it’s dirty, less air gets circulated. Not very energy efficient. And at today’s energy prices?! Minus a clean filter, the dirt and other pollutants can get trapped inside the unit, leading to some costly repairs or maybe even a new unit. Plus, they’re usually good for up to 90 days. (That “up to” can be a month or two if you live in a pet-filled, smoky house.)

DIY: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

One of the benefits of DIY is also one of the downsides: the effects on your body.

I’ve dropped some weight this summer, to be sure. Between Thursday and today, three more pounds have vanished. You gotta love that!

I caught myself in the mirror this morning and gleefully noticed my upper arms. They are muscular. I’ve always had a little bit of tone there, but these babies are rock solid! Then, I noticed that everyone else is likely to notice them, too – just not for the fit little creatures they are. In sharp contrast to my ruddy, tanned forearms, my upper arms are white. Almost sickly white against that healthy sunbaked color that stops just above my elbow.

I have a similar situation at my feet. As you can see, they are perfectly half-tanned, thanks to the trusty tennis shoes that I’ve been working in all summer. Through the lattice pattern of my sandals, you can see white, white, white! Unfortunately, not a lot I can do about it at this point.

Another downside is dry, cracked skin. Hour after hour in the baking sun, I’ve gone through more lotion this summer than I have in my entire previous life combined. I’ve found that nothing works for long, except Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Skin Therapy Lotion. Stuff makes your skin feel better and it’s non-greasy, one of the things I’ve always hated most about using lotion. (That instant ahhhh turned ewwwww when it sits atop your skin like grease on a French fry. That’s not the case with this stuff.)

The one thing it couldn’t entirely solve was my dry cracked feet. I walk on the backs of my tennies (yes, I know, the mothers out there are cringing) so my heels have been exposed to mud, dirt, sand, and all that lovely and drying mortar mix. Is it any wonder they won’t behave? Enter PedEgg. Can I just say I love this thing? I put Gold Bond on before, leave on a while (wearing socks) then use the PedEgg. Exfoliates much better than any pumice can. Then I put lotion back on afterward. In just a few days, the difference is incredible.

Now let’s touch on those body aches. I don’t care what age you are, heavy lifting and other strenuous activity day after day – particularly in excessive heat – can make you feel twice that age. My wrists and knees have been giving me the most trouble and nothing helps for long. My assistant, Donna, has been telling me for weeks to try Flexall 454. I’ve made mental notes to pick some up, but haven’t remembered. But last night, I was in the medicine cabinet and what do I see on the shelf? A bottle of this stuff! Apparently, the mother had tried it at some point and I didn’t know it. I used some of it and I have to say that it worked pretty well.

So I am pretty pleased with some of the products I’ve found lately to confront the ravages of DIY. Got any good remedies for dealing with the woes of DIY ? (Other than alcohol. That works temporarily but has its own set of woes.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Brickyard Throwdown?

DIY isn’t for everybody. I’ll be the first person to admit that because sometimes, I don’t even think it’s for me.

Most people I know are complimentary of the work I do. They’re very supportive and encouraging. They decry their own abilities when it comes to doing similar things at their own homes. Truth is, I think most of them could do it if they really wanted or needed to. But, they neither need nor want to. It’s just not their thing. I respect that.

Some people, however, can be just plain rude. Last year, while painting the house, I came dangerously close to b*tch-slapping a former colleague whose contribution to a conversation I was having with another colleague about the project, was: “Can’t you just pay someone to do that?” And it was uttered in the snidest of tones.

I wanted to reply with an equally acidic response (pointing out the fact that not everyone makes what she does, and she has a second equally large source of income in her house, to boot) but bit my tongue. I instead calmly said that I don’t like to pay people to do things I can do myself. That leaves that much more in resources available to do other projects or to pay for having things done that are way out of my league. Because, that really is the truth.

Then, over the weekend, there were two more contrasting opinions. First, my neighbor’s girlfriend came over. “That’s looking great,” she said. “I know it’s a lot of work.” Later, as I was wrapping up, one of the “neighborhood walkers” as I call them offered me his two cents. “Kind of taking you a long time, isn’t it?”

The tone took me right back to last year’s slight. Yet, I remained polite. I agreed, acknowledging that masonry, after all, wasn’t my day job. (I mean except for putting up the fence, every minute of available time has gone into this project. Should I set up floodlights and work at night? Hmmmmm …. that’s an idea!)

“Then maybe you ought to let one do it.” His tone dripped with snideness and disdain.

Oh no he didn’t! Even if he thought I was doing the crappiest job he’d ever seen, he did not just say that to me. My dander was not only up, it was doing back-flips. This dude is spoilin' for a brickyard throwdown. (I’ve been wanting to use that word since Ann’s post last week!)
“Are you volunteering?” I asked. “Because if you are, I could use a mason’s help, though I’m sure my rates are a lot more reasonable. And if you aren’t volunteering, talk is cheap. Very cheap. Effort, now that costs a little more. So I’d put a little effort into continuing my walk.”
I don’t know where it came from. (I obviously stunned him. Hell, I stunned myself. ) The look on his face was priceless. He kind of harrumphed and resumed walking. I'd made my point with a limited amount of rudeness.

DIY isn’t pretty. It’s messy. It’s time-consuming. It’s costly. And it can be bad for your health if you put your two cents into the wrong project.

(Particularly if you deposit them in earshot of a feisty little woman who is burning up, exhausted and starving – and has an assortment of sharp handtools within easy reach. Not to mention hundreds of bricks.)

The "Evening" Post

The evening post got a little delayed due to last night's extended light show. So much for my bright, sunny day. The latter half of the evening became the classic novel line, “It was a dark and stormy night.” I was violently awakened at about 2 by thunder that rolled on and on for at least a minute, rattling things all over my room.

But hey, I got two consecutive dry days in, so ask me if I cared!

I did not finish the porch. Yeah, I know. This is becoming a running theme with me, isn’t it? But I worked on it a very long time today. Yesterday’s snags had really slowed me down. So this is as much as I was able to get done. I only pray that everything was sufficiently dry and that my plastic will be enough to protect it from the downpour. You can see my "mudpit" in the pictures. (And, if you look carefully, you’ll see Toby in one picture and Ozzie in the other. They were both in the door at one point, but Toby disappeared before I could snap the two of them.)

I can tell you this: Laying bricks upright takes infinitely longer and is unbelievably more complex than just laying them flat. It also requires a great deal of patience, so you can imagine how frazzled I am, me, the queen of Impatience. I am doing three rows on the face of the porch. The first row is structural. It will be masked by the layers of gravel and sand that will precede the actual bricks of the walkway. Not all of the bricks are the same distance from the base, thanks to the jagged foundation, but they’re all level. I have nearly finished the second row. It will intersect at some point with the walkway bricks. The third row will connect the face of the porch with its floor.

I decided to do a running bond pattern on the face. It will be stronger structurally and it will be a good transition to the walkway which will have the same pattern. The mother came out to inspect my progress as I was wrapping up. Except for me, she’s my harshest critic and she said it looks great, so I guess it does.

I’m just hoping that when I am able to go back to it again and I pull away the plastic I don’t find a heap of bricks that used to be the porch face!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Bright, Sunny Day

There's a chance that the afternoon heat may touch off a thunderstorm. I'm hoping not. Otherwise, we may be in for some rain late tonight. And that's OK with me.

The threat for last night never materialized, so I don't have to work in a mudpit! I'm going out in a few minutes to flip back the plastic so the sun can start drying out any dampness. And then, it's onto the bricks. Again. Or more accurately, still.

At least when I looked out the window today I didn't wince at the height of the grass. I was literally wading through a light patch of weeds yesterday, but that was the one thing I did get done. If only the back was cut ...

I had to laugh last night. We were watching Father of the Bride II (seen it 1,000 times but there was nothing on cable) and towards the end, Steve Martin is outside the family homestead, crawling up his walkway: "I laid every brick in this walkway with my own two hands. I built that fence."

My mom topped it off. "They have a brick walkway. It's such a beautiful home. But they don't have a brick porch."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Sins of the Previous Owners

Jayne over at Dainty Digs was plotting some oh-so-deserved punishment for the "sucky previous owners" of her home today. And I have to say I know just how she feels.

I got nothing done today. (Except for mowing the front yard.) I had hoped to get all of the perimeter bricks in place and FINISH the porch. Yeah, that's what I'd hoped.

Instead, I spent no less than three hours in the burning hot sun fighting with the porch. Fighting with the porch because, while I had been busy demoing the sidewalk, I had failed to notice that the nice, solid slab under the porch flows out from under it. That's why there was that funky layer of caulkish like stuff connecting the porch and the sidewalk. They just poured the sidewalk in front of it and thought no more about the shoddy job they'd done with the porch slab.

In order to get the face bricks to line up square, I tried to smooth the jagged edges of the slab. Easier said than done. The RotoZip helped some. I used the masonry wheel to wear some of it down and then put a chisel into the saw lines. Then, in sheer and utter frustration, I started beating the hell out of it with a hammer. That actually worked to a point. Well enough anyway that I got the brickwork started.

I cut some other bricks for the side of the porch edge and started digging at the dirt along the edge of the walkway, trying to get that lined up. I'm glad I covered the pit with plastic. It was pretty damp even so, but once I uncovered it and the sun got on it for a while, it was fine. Without the plastic, I'd have been working in a mudpit. As it was, the second half is a mudpit. The plastic was covered by no less than 4 inches of water! So, I drained it, pulled it off, cleaned it off and then put it back. (They were predicting rain but now ... who knows? Hoping for NO rain!)

It's been a long, hot, frustrating day. I guess the only consolation I have is that I don't have to worry about exacting any vigilante-style justice (by making them even out the jagged edges WITH AN EMERY BOARD) on the idiots who poured this porch to prevent them from doing it to anyone else. They're probably already dead.

Another Workin' Day

Lawrence couldn't come today to finish the fence, so I had already decided days ago to get crackin' on the porch and walkway. The plan:

*Finish the perimeter bricks, making the porch essentially DONE
*Get the first landscape forms in place
*Start putting down gravel and sand (if I get to the bricks)
*Mow the yard (It's tall as I didn't get to this last weekend except for the little patch I did Wednesday to prep for the fence)

Ideally, I might actually get some bricks down today, but I won't hold my breath. Since it's going to rain tomorrow and maybe multiple days next week, I'm going to try to do the walkway a section at a time, leaving in place the heavy gauge plastic that's out there now -- and has stopped LOTS of rain from saturating the now bare ground -- on whatever sections I don't get to.

That's my plan anyway. First, I have to motivate myself to get dressed! I've just been puttering around and Twittering and petting Oz (who I neglected much of last night). He's too cute. Currently smashed up against my hip as I type.

I was hoping to be bloggin' about winning a True Value gift card from, but as I've not been notified, I guess it wasn't me. If you have, CONGRATS! Spend it well.

I was pretty happy though to see that Charles and Hudson picked up on the contest and I'm proud to say that This D*mn House was among the entries they cited. *grinning*

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Never Ending Story

“You know what I just thought of? I wonder what would happen if someday, for some reason - you ended up in a new house. WHAT then? Who would you be? I wondered if you'd build cool furniture, start a garden...or...would you secretly break crap in your new house, just so you fix it?”Ann

My YT buddy Ann left me that comment this morning. And, I’ve thought about it all day. Mostly I’ve thought about it because it was already on my mind. One thing that wouldn't happen: there will be no gardens.

When everything’s done with the house, would the blog have a point anymore? thought I. And then here’s this comment from Ann asking essentially the same thing. Since I love the blog, and in spite of all my b*tching, I have a love/hate relationship with this house. I start to love it a little more when I look around at my completed and mostly completed projects (the paint job, the LR/DR floor, the porch, now the fence.)

On mornings like today though, I HATE ITS GUTS!

Then, I remembered one essential piece of flawed logic in that theory: This house will never be done. Not really, totally and completely done. My mother will never allow it to be. It’s just her nature. By the time one round of things is done, she’ll already be on to the next. In fairness, there’s a lot of stuff here that needs doing. The rest of it? It’s all Carole. She’s made it her life’s work. And mine.

And, for the most part, I’m OK with that. Because:

*The house has become an integral part of our relationship. We laugh at it, cry about it, fight over it, discuss it at great length. It has made for some interesting conversations and some funnier than hell stories. I’ve learned a lot about my mother in the process. I think she’s even learned some things from me.
*I rarely admit it, but I actually like that most of the neighborhood can’t stand it. They have to know what we’re doing now. And what’s next. Then they want to know everything about it down to the most minute detail. I won’t tell them everything.
*The house brought me here, literally guided me to this blog. And the blog? Well, it has given me an awesome new way to communicate with those of you that I’ve known for years, some of you for most of my life. And, it has opened a door to a whole bunch of other wonderful people that I don’t get to hang with in 3-D, but that’s fun, too. I wouldn't know you! *shudder* And, there's always planes ...

I’ve decided I like it here. A lot. So when will the house be finished? What will happen to the blog then?

I’m in no hurry to find out.

Down the Drain

It was a rough night at This D*mn House. Five minutes before I was planning to go to bed, I discovered water over much of the laundry room floor. That’s never a good sign. Oh no, thought I, not the brand new water heater!

No. It wasn’t. The culprit appeared to be the air conditioner. I thought the drain hose may have sprung a leak or else it just was draining from under the unit as some water had pooled there. Again, no.

Then, I heard a drip. Ever so faint, but a drip. It was coming from the overflow pipe which runs along the sink. That means one of two things: the main is clogged and it’s backing up from the yard or either the kitchen or bathroom drain is jammed up.

Luckily, I’ve learned to keep clog-busters on hand. I cleaned up the floor and the sink as best I could and then poured a gallon of main line stuff (I don't know the name, but if you're genuinely interested I'll find out and let you know) down the drain. I grabbed a bottle of Roto Rooter Build-Up Remover and headed upstairs. (This is really good stuff. They also have a fairly helpful FAQ page on their Web site which I've consulted before.) I poured some in the kitchen sink and then poured more into the bathtub drain. I covered all the drains, told Mom not to use water or the sinks for anything if possible ‘til morning, and went to bed.

I needn’t have bothered. Toby yowled and screamed. He shut up and Mother Nature started in, lighting up my room and shaking it for good measure. This upset Ozzie who got unsettled, finally settled, and then decided he needed to pee around 3.

Mother Nature gave up, Ozzie was nestled back in bed, and Toby resumed his yowling. I told the mother that the cat goes to the vet soon or I neuter him myself. I’ve got just the tool to try out on him.

It didn’t look like what I had cleaned up was sewage. I prayed that it wasn’t. And I’m happy to report this morning that I confirmed that. I began my day by flushing out and plunging drains, running like a mad woman up and down the basement stairs, yelling to mom to run water or to turn it off. Turns out it was the kitchen sink. So the worst I’d been messing with was dirty dishwater though I’ll spare you a description of what came up when I plunged. That meant that the shower was no longer off limits, so I hit it.

And now that I’m completely exhausted, it’s off to work. I feel, but hope I don't look, like what came up out of the drain.

Home ownership is great, isn’t it?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lessons From Lawrence

You can’t spend any amount of time with Lawrence without it affecting you in some way. He is by far one of the most optimistic and positive people I’ve ever met. What we can all learn from Lawrence goes way beyond his almost endless supply of construction knowledge. Here’s a few lessons from yesterday.

1. Always look on the bright side. (Don’t go all Monty Python on me here.) But seriously, this guy never seems to get rattled by anything. If they could bottle whatever it is he has, no one would need Prozac, Xanax or any number of other anti-depressants. You just can’t get this guy down. When he called me accidentally Tuesday, one of the closing comments between us was me saying that I hoped we had a better day to work on Wednesday than today. (The first half of Tuesday was riddled with thundershowers.) Lawrence’s response: “Well, that just made the ground that much easier for us to dig into.”
2. Don’t slow down – for long. Lawrence isn’t big on breaks. Me, after 90 minutes in the sun, I’ve got to have some water and a sit-down in the shade. He acquiesced a little yesterday, but not much. In part, it was because his hand was hurting, though he wouldn’t admit it. And I couldn’t get him to quit. He is right though about stopping. If you take too long a break, it’s much too hard to get started again. Quoth Lawrence: “You can think of a thousand different reasons why you just don’t need to do it today.”
3. Measure thrice. Dig once. This is a twist on the old rule of cutting as it applies to fence post digging.
4. Just keep going. At 70, Lawrence is in awesome shape. He’s not a big guy. No bulging pecs or six-pack abs. But I would put him up against the average 40-year-old workman any day and bet that at the end of the day, Lawrence is the one still going.
5. Post-hole diggers need a new shape. Had to share this because it’s one of those observations by Lawrence that I think characterizes how he thinks. “You can’t put a six-inch square in a five-inch round.” Essentially, trying to put in one of today’s larger-sized vinyl fence posts into a hole dug with a standard post-hole digger is just that.

I’ve only known Lawrence a little over a year, but I have to say I think I’m a better person for it. And I know my house is a better place because of it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Fence Is Up

Well, sort of. Most of the fence is up would be more accurate. Lawrence came this morning and we spent the entire day putting up the six new panels that separate the backyard from the alley.

There are two more panels to go. Those go on the other side of the driveway, separating our half-lot from the alley. Unfortunately, we can’t finish this weekend because Lawrence is busy. So I still have two panels and three posts on a pallet in the driveway. Damn! I so wanted to get that pallet outta here this weekend.

In a word, digging post holes sucks. If I never did it again, it would be too soon. Actually, it probably wouldn’t be as bad but I haven’t had enough time to recover from the sledgehammer work and my poor wrists … let’s just say they hurt. Bad.

The new Black & Decker drill (9.6-volt cordless) made its debut today and its performance was spectacular. It lasted all day and I put in no less than 150 screws. It ends up being a really great gift after all. (I admit that I wondered about it. I'm no longer a doubter.)

But my day began long before Lawrence arrived – which he did as I was trying to read a few blogs.

True to his word, Dago was here before 8. I helped fill a backhoe loader (it took 2 loads to get all of the sidewalk). He got part of the big root, but only part. Still gotta dig the rest of that sucker out! Mom tried today while she was on yet another weeding mission, but no dice.

Afterward, I mowed a little of the back yard. But I was wearing down, even then. And Lawrence arrived about 20 minutes after I stopped. After that, I was in almost constant motion until 7:30 p.m.

It was a productive, albeit draining, day. And tomorrow I go back to work.

The pictures show the end result. All in all I think it was worth it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another Year Older -- But Happy

A wise woman whom I deeply admired once told me that you should never regret getting older. "It beats the alternative."

I couldn't agree more.

The day got off to an auspicious start with the power outage and storm and friggin' Toby WOULD NOT SHUT UP all night. And then, I went to get my hair done and had to settle for a haircut. Minor improvement, major bummer. Then, it was a series of smaller things. My cell phone was ringing before 9 a.m. It was Lawrence. He had called me by accident. So there I was awake. I got up and started doing stuff.

Ever seen the movie Friday? Silly, kinda crude, but I think it's hilarious. This particular exchange sums up my foray into breakfast this morning.

Craig Jones: We ain't got no sugar.
Smokey: No sugar? Damn. Y'all ain't never got two things that match. Either y'all got Kool-aid, no sugar. Peanut butter, no jelly. Ham, no burger. Daaamn.

In our house, it was cereal, no milk. (Last weekend, it was milk, no cereal!) I ran to the corner milk store and when I came back, Mom says, "Your package came. You've got tools in there." Tools? I didn't order any tools. Then, I remembered that my new friends at Bosch were going to "send me something." This is for a whole 'nother post. Suffice it to say, this package helped make my birthday.

After breakfast, I puttered around and pondered taking a nap. I decided to enter the contest in spite of the fact that the porch isn't 100 percent. Then, I was gravitating toward nap zone. And I heard heavy machinery behind the house.

Dago! Yep. My dear cuz was checking out the pile of sidewalk. He'll be here tomorrow at 8 to take it away. YAY! Then Lawrence will be here by 9:30 to put up the fence. Sometime before either of those, I need to mow the back yard. clearly, easier BEFORE the new fence goes up.

I had a great meal, went shopping with Mom, and came home with a key lime pie -- instead of a cake. Oh, and 350 pounds of concrete for tomorrow.

It's going to be quite a day ...

Look What I Did Entry: My Front Porch

This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value.

I just read all the rules for the contest that is running in conjunction with True Value Hardware's StartRightStartHere contest. Even though my front porch is only about 98 percent complete, I've decided to enter it anyway. There are roughly 16 perimeter bricks that need to be in place and a new handrail to go up to finish it. If that's held against me, so be it. I've been plagued by rain and dangerously high temps the past week so I've done the best I could. But since it looks like winners are being randomly selected, what do I have to lose? Here goes nothing!

If you've been following the blog, you know the story. I took a standard concrete slab porch and turned it into a brick one. It took almost a month of steady work and several weeks of prep. You see, I started hauling bricks home (100 to 150 at a time) in my car trunk in April. Likewise for the hundreds of pounds of mortar and sand.

I can say that all but 200 of the bricks so far (I'm doing a walkway next after just ripping out the existing concrete one with a sledgehammer, pickax and prybar) came home that way. The 200 were hauled by my handyman Lawrence when we jammed them into his truck with a new water heater.

I have hand-selected EVERY BRICK for this job. I have also done every bit of it myself using info I found online and the advice of a good union man. I think that this is one of my biggest undertakings, especially since I've never done any kind of concrete/mortar work on this scale before. So, forgive me if I'm a bit too proud of it. It's not perfect, but I think it looks d*mn good. It really was a case of throwing body and soul into a project. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Thank you to the many folks in real life and cyber life who have encouraged me along the way. You'll never know what a help that was.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Life in the Power-Free Zone

I feel very much like the scene in Network where Peter Finch throws open the window and yells, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

For the fifth or sixth time in a month -- the THIRD time in a week -- we are without power. Ameren, you're really trying my patience. Their Web site tells me that once again, the same 288 customers are without power right along with me. You'd think that after this many times it would be fixed. You'd think --but you'd be wrong.

If it's the SAME area that many times over a short amount of time that is affected, wouldn't you think you'd be able to isolate the problem? I guess not. That's more power outages in a month that we had in all the previous years COMBINED that we had Illinois Power. Ridiculous.

I guess I should be thankful because I had just gotten out of the shower and into my pajamas. Otherwise, I'd have been in the shower at the time.

I have a few things I need to do for work since I don't go back 'til Thursday, so I guess I'd best do them while the computer still has some battery power.

Happy friggin' birthday. The day can only get better, right?

Now what?

That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind when it comes to the walkway. The quick and ultimate answer: bricks. But first, there are a whole lot of “now whats” to be done.

Right now, the entire walkway is covered in heavy gauge plastic. We may get rain tonight and maybe again tomorrow. After all those years of having the sidewalk to safeguard against water seeping beneath the house, I sure don’t want to leave it exposed for any longer than I have to.

First, I have to finish the perimeter of the porch. Once you can no longer see the gray facing of the plain concrete, the porch will be complete. Then, once those bricks are in place, I get to play with rocks and sand. LOTS of rocks and sand.

Before I do that though, I have to even out the dirt sides and put in some metal landscape forms. Technically, I don’t have to do that, but I’d rather do it than risk having no barrier between where all the landscape rocks and the yard meet the bricks. Then, I will put down a few inches of gravel and level the whole thing and tamp it down firmly. This is going to take a while. In the pictures, the walkway may not look very big, but it’s about 30 feet long total and more than 2 feet at its widest.

Then, I get to do the same thing again with a combination of mortar mix and sand. Fill it up, level it out. Tamp it down.

And finally, I will get to lay bricks in what’s known as a running bond pattern. (I chose this first, because I like it, and second, because I saw several references to this being the easiest pattern when doing a curved walkway.) I won’t have that several rows of straight lines in between. It’s just a continuous curve with the rows of bricks having a staggered start. I think it’s simple and classic and won’t clash with the pattern on the porch.

Then, I get to sweep in mortar and sand and mist 'er down. I'm sure I'll be doing it a little at a time. Look how long it took to do the porch without all this prep work! *Sigh*

It’s going to be a lot of work and I’m not sure how long it’s going to take. I'm hoping to have it done by the end of next weekend. A lot will depend on Mother Nature’s cooperation and she has been quite the beeotch this year, so I won’t hold my breath. We'll just have to see what happens.

I keep telling myself it's going to look great, it will all be worth it and I'll be sooo glad I did it.

Uh-huh. Keep on talkin.'

Rakin' It In

It isn't even my birthday yet and somehow I've managed to rake in the goods already. The mother shocked me with the best of both worlds: More cute shoes, a new belt, and a cordless drill! (I got it early thanks to my continued discussion about buying a new drill.) The drill came with all kinds of stuff including a new hammer, a few sets of pliers and a stud sensor in addition to about two dozen different drill and driver bits.

Then, my former client turned friend sent me a darling necklace that arrived on Saturday. And, of course, there's still the unused Lowe's gift card that arrived last month because of a calendar error. It doesn't get much better than that.

I have to call the JULIE people to get the utilities marked for our fence project and make sure Lawrence is still on for Wednesday. While rain is in the forecast today and tomorrow, it's supposed to (noddin' at KayO)be dry on Wednesday. I'll take the rain tomorrow -- as long as it doesn't rain on my cake -- if it will be dry to get the fence up Wednesday.

I didn't get the porch done yesterday as I'd liked, so I guess I won't be entering the Houseblogs contest with TrueValue. (They're giving away three $300 cards for entering your favorite project.)Oh well.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's Not the Heat -- It's the Humidity

You hear that a lot in the Midwest. Today, it was both. The official high today -- so far -- 99 degrees. I stopped after a little less than six hours.

Between the heat, which caused me to break out into a sweat in the shade, the beating sun, and the bone-searing humidity, I could stand no more. Not to mention my wrists and fingers, which have borne the brunt of the sidewalk saga.

I got all of the debris (the sidewalk chunks photo from yesterday wasn't complete. There were three stacks still in the driveway) out to the alley and tried to pick out the bigger stray pieces out of walkway pit. I cut a few of the perimeter bricks and started pulling up the worthless landscaping material I'd put down last year. (It's made by DuPont and it's crap. And it wasn't cheap either.)

The masonry blade was worn out anyway so I slipped on the metal-cutting one and trimmed the elbow drain on one side. With the bricks on the porch, the drain is now flush -- and a little too flush -- with the porch, pouring water all over my bricks, and loosening two of them out of place. (They weren't completely in place anyway, but this had to get fixed.) With the drain fixed, I put those bricks and a few others that are fragmented on the other side, down.

Since rain is a possibility tomorrow -- and maybe severe -- I'm going to put plastic across the pit. I don't want it to get too soaked before I can get back to it.

We have water pressure again, but we're still under a boil order. And last night, just before 11, the POWER WENT OUT AGAIN. Ameren had it back up in about 2 hours. This is no time to be without power, that's for sure.

So, here's hoping that the next few days I can avoid overheating, flooding, and blackouts. (This is starting to read like a Biblical list of plagues!)

Welcome to July in the Midwest ...

Dear Sidewalk

Dear Sidewalk,

Why did you have to be so difficult? Why couldn’t you have made it easy on both of us and just gone quietly? It was time to go, really it was. You were worn and cracked and making the new brick porch look bad. So why all the hassle?

I know you thought you could stay forever. Sometimes, I thought you would stay forever, stubborn as you were. I almost gave in. Almost. But, you probably didn’t know this about me: I’m a stubborn summab*tch, too. I kept coming back. The difference was I just kept bringing more tools until finally, I brought enough.

You were a worthy adversary, Sidewalk. You challenged me physically, mentally, and spiritually. Near 100-degree heat is not the day to take you on, but Mother Nature was clearly trying to protect you. She gave me rain to keep me from you and skyrocketing temperatures to dissuade me. I’ll admit, you did beat the crap out of me. But you did not break me. (Except for, well, maybe my hands, knees and wrists. But they’ll all be fine eventually.)

And while my Plan B didn’t work as I’d envisioned, your resolve slowly broke. You started giving up in bigger chunks, leaving less mess.

I know you’ve been here for nearly 70 years. My hat’s off to your amazing staying power. I respect your stamina and your strength. You took many opportunities to remind me of this, particularly when you forced me off balance and slammed me onto my tailbone or backside a few times. But, I’ll bet you didn’t think I’d get up. Oh, you were so wrong!

You see, I’ve got a stubborn streak a mile wide. Normally, it is not considered a virtue. In your case though, it was among my greatest assets.

I want to thank you for helping to tone my upper body. Beating you down and then picking you up has given me definition this body hasn’t seen since my 20s. I owe you for that. And your demise has elicited several unsolicited compliments from passersby who can’t help but ask what I’m doing next. Like the guy walking back from the library. The mailman. The girl walking her dog. That’s all encouraging.

So now you lay at the back of the property line, awaiting your next adventure. We kind of like you there. Perhaps you won’t leave after all. Maybe you’ll become a fountain, a small wall, or a flagstone-like path in the backyard.

It might be nice to keep you here after all. But, whether you stay or go is immaterial right now. The important thing is that you are now out of my way. Game off. I win!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Water: A Tale of Two Scenarios

I live a little leery of July 19. Two years ago tonight, I was at Busch Stadium with a colleague and a client. We had the company's field box seats for the event and I was psyched. It was the stadium's inaugural season and this was my second visit in as many nights. (I'd spent the first night in a luxury box. THAT was hard to take.)

It was as hot then as it was today. High humidity. Miserable. I packed lots of cold water, cool rags. We were overheated by the time we hit the stadium so we got dinner and a cold drink. While we were in line, the gray sky that had been overtaking the stadium started to go completely black. Torrential rain, powerful winds leveled buildings, flooded streets and threw around debris. The storm that blew in wreaked havoc on my neighborhood -- and on This D*mn House -- and left us without power for a week. (These are pictures of some of the damage to the house and the tangle of wires at the end of our alley. When a second storm blew through on July 21, those wires and trees came down on that car, with the neighbor inside! Luckily, she wasn't hurt.)

I thought about that all day as I worked outside in the heat. The three things on my mind: Getting a hot shower, a good meal, and relaxing in the cool.

I was wrapping up my day when our neighbors were getting in their car. "Sure a shame that you're not going to clean after being out here all day," she said.

I was afraid to ask what she meant, but mom beat me to it. "Why not?"

"We don't have any water. There's barely a trickle coming out." My heart fell. Turns out somebody hit and broke a water main earlier in the day.

We'd both noticed that the water pressure was off earlier, but that happens in the summer sometimes. Especially on a day like today. (At 95 degrees.) But I couldn't have imagined this.

But luck smiled on me. There was a minor trickle that seemed to strengthen a bit in the shower mode. It was enough to get clean. I was ecstatic. It took a while and took some effort, but I was able to scrub clean.

So now, I'm enjoying a Blizzard and preparing to take some pills, including a muscle relaxer. Luckily, I have plenty of bottled water in the house so we'll make it through the boil order.

Good thing. Tomorrow is going to be even hotter. Please ... NO STORMS!

Tip-Toe Through the Tool Aisle

OK. I have officially dispelled the myth that I am a power tool junkie. I'm just a plain ole tool junkie! No cord or battery required.

Case in point: I just stood awestruck staring at a 48-inch pipe wrench. Why would I ever need a 48-inch pipe wrench. Well, I'm hoping to go the rest of my life not needing one. But that's not the point. The point: It's huge. It's to be respected. It captured my attention. And, if I ever did need one ... I could get it at Harbor Freight.

That's right. I was there earlier, not long after they opened. The only woman in the store, save Monique, the young, black cashier. Very nice girl. Working her way through nursing school and introduced a few years ago to home ownership. She seemed surprised to see me amid the die-hard car enthusiasts, some of whom were probably waiting for the doors to open, and the other Weekend Warriors, all male.

When I told her what I was doing, she shook her head. "WOW! I need to learn to do more stuff myself." I offered a little advice. She asked a few questions.

A future houseblogger, maybe?

I planned the trip yesterday. I thought I'd bought a tamper when I created my stone patio a few years back, but, apparently not. So, I needed one of those. And I hoped to get a longer prybar to help try out the alternate plan for ridding myself of the sidewalk.

So, for $30, I got both of those things, a box of 100 thick latex gloves, a roll of nylon rope, and a four-piece gardening handtool set for the mother.

It's been raining again. Just a string of brief showers, but enough to soak everything down. I'm giving it a bit to dry out and hoping that the last little cluster I see on the dopplar is it for the day. I've got work to do!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bye, Bye Starbucks

I’m very glad that I’m not a big fan of Starbucks’ coffee and that I feed my caffeine addiction in other ways. Our local store is on the list of casualties announced by the company that is shuttering more than 600 locations during the next six months or so. About 16 stores total in the St. Louis metro will close.

Call me a heathen (or worse), but the French vanilla cappuccino of the Quik Trip or 7-Eleven set just tastes better to me, and at a price I find a lot more palatable, too. But I do like some of Starbucks’ breads and pastries, so I will miss occasionally grabbing a few of those. And I feel sorry for those soon-to-be jobless baristas, something like 12,000 of them! I genuinely hate to see folks lose their jobs for anything other than unbelievably poor personal, not company, performance.

From the beginning, I didn’t think our community could support its own Starbucks. But it survived longer (opening in early 2006) and drew more of a crowd than I thought it would. There always seems to be a pretty steady stream of customers there, even after the temps started heating up back in May.

So, in tribute, perhaps I will go by there tonight. Mayhaps they’ll have something good to start the day with tomorrow …

A Magical Visit to HardwareLand

It’s Friday. There will no doubt be lots of banter at some point today about everyone’s weekend plans. Barbecues. Pool parties. Out-of-town guests. Baseball games.

But me, I’ll have none of it. The mother is meeting me at the station tonight and we’ll head off to HardwareLand, that magical place that empties your wallet, loads your car, and hijacks your agenda for most of the year. How can you possibly compete with that, you say? I’ll give you a pointer. You, too, can visit HardwareLand at a discount, courtesy of One Project Closer.

A few weeks ago, I discovered their post on a Lowe’s project starter coupon which is good for $10 off a $25 purchase when you use your Visa card. The catch: It expires July 31. So print your coupon, plan your project, and save a few bucks in the process.

As for me, I’ll be buying the rest of the landscaping forms for the walkway, more gravel, and more mortar because my plan is to actually get the concrete removed tomorrow. I think my alternate plan will work now that the biggest piece is out already. (Emphasis on the word think.)

If it doesn’t, it’s going to be a loooooong weekend to be sure.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

FUBAR: When It Absolutely Has to Be Destroyed

I can’t believe I’ve been an “official” houseblogger for nearly two months and I’m just now discovering Charles & Hudson. With shame, I admit that.

To steal a phrase, “They had me at hello.” It wasn’t enough that they linked to This D*mn House earlier this week. Oh no. Previously, they happened to have written about the best li'l tools to have when you want to tear the hell out of something! Or, the "Top Five Tools Of Mass Destruction," as they have dubbed them. Their list leads off with something I'm waaaay familiar with: a 14-pound sledgehammer. There's been some serious demo going on around here, as you know.

The article also points out a tool I think I have to own: the Stanley FuBar Utility Bar. (Gotta love a tool that has its own freakin’ Web site.) I’m thinking that the FUBAR would live up to its name. So, I guess I have to find out if Amazon has one of these, now that they have sent me yet another tool-related email …

Amazon, You’re Killin’ Me

There aren’t many things that draw my attention like a moth to a flame. Pens come to mind. I’ve got hundreds of them. This is not an exaggeration. Ask my mother. (I’d buy a Mont Blanc if only Jonny Depp came with it.) I can’t walk by a pen display anywhere without at least looking. I think it might be a sickness.

Clothes – not so much. Occasionally, I’ll see something I just have to have but it’s rare. Shoes – pretty much the same story. (Well, there were those cute sandals last weekend ...) Sorry, Carole. I didn’t get the clotheshorse gene, much to her dismay. But somehow, I did seem to get an overabundance of the power tool gene. I’m a regular freak of nature, I am.

I can spend hours in Sears Hardware and get lost in a Harbor Freight store. So that’s why when Amazon recently sent me an email touting their latest power tool sale, I purposely avoided opening it. I’m not really in the market for anything right now, but once I start looking, you just never know. It's serious danger, Will Robinson. It's the equivalent of putting a loaded crack pipe down in front of a junkie.

I tried to get a fix by cruising and admiring tools at Lowe's last night. (I bought the first round of gravel and the metal edging for the walkway. ) I thought that reading a few boxes, parking my palms around some power would be sufficient. It wasn't.

I finally broke down and opened the email. In under a minute, I had a few things on my wish list. I looked at a Black and Decker cordless drill (something I don’t really need but would be nice to have) … or maybe I’d prefer something a little more powerful like a DeWalt. In any case, I don’t need either of them really. I checked out an assortment of handtools, some of which I do need. (I'm currently using an almost 30-year-old hammer, for instance.)

Then there was this fantastic little power cutter, “ideal for wallpaper.” Hmm ... there are two bedrooms waiting to be done.

Someone please stop me before I kill.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How To Save a Life

I don’t feel old enough to have friends stricken by life-threatening situations. I should know all too well that it’s possible. I should know that sometimes they don’t recover from them as earlier this year, a former colleague of mine (from my newspaper days) died at age 46 – not that many years ahead of me.

So it was with a great deal of shock that I read an email earlier this week from another friend and former colleague relating a near-death episode involving yet another friend and former colleague. (And this one happens to be a few months younger than me.) Luckily, this story has a happier ending.

According to Melanie, John will be on his way home soon. He’s been hospitalized the past several days after being felled by a blood clot blocking flow to his lungs. It’s treatable and he’s responding to meds. Fortunately, John has some medical training so he was able to save his own life by grabbing some oxygen and immediately summoning help! And, daredevil that he is, he got a helicopter ride from one hospital to another, so he’s pleased about that. I’m sure that he’s equally pleased by baffling the doctors with such a case for an otherwise healthy guy in his 40s.

I’m both happy and relieved. How could I not be? The world retains a smart, funny, and talented guy whom I’m happy to count among my friends. But, the whole incident made me wonder how many of us figure that – by virtue of our age – we’re immune to that sudden life-threatening situation like a blood clot, a heart attack or even a stroke? So please, do me a favor. Do yourself a favor. Check out these signs and symptoms for cardiac arrest and stroke from the American Heart Association and this explanation of blood clots. Know what it is. Know what to do if it happens. And do it.

It could save a friend’s life. It could save a family member’s life.

It could save your life.

Some Quick Stats

The Fence
Number of Days 'Til the New Fence Goes Up: 7 (including today)
Percent of Rain Chance Forecast for July 23: 10
Number of Panels Going Up: 8
Number of Poles Going Up: 10
Percent Chance That Lawrence Will Be Well Enough to Proceed: 95

The Walkway
Percent of Rain Chance Forecast for This Weekend: 20 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday
Chance That It Will Rain Both Days Anyway: 70 percent
Number of Concrete Slabs Left to Remove: 5
Chance That I'll Pay Someone $600 to Do It: 0 percent
Chance That I'll Finish the Porch This Weekend: 95 percent
Chance That I'll Ever Finish the Walkway: 50 percent
Chance That I'll Ride the New Cart Before Putting Supplies on It: 100 percent

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Be Our Guest (Blogger)

With all of the accolades of last week came an offer from Todd Fratzel to provide a guest blog. Well, that's just too generous and too good of an offer to refuse. So today, this little blog gets a guest blogger gig on a big blog. Now how cool is that?!

I'm no expert by any means, so I thought it best to share something I know at least a little bit about: laminate flooring. Todd liked that idea and as a result you get this article. The pictures with the article are my living room/dining room and show off my flooring project of last year.

Outside a few typos, it's pretty heady stuff for me. And there's a lot more I could tell you about laminate, so if you have questions, I'll be happy to try and answer them.

I hope you'll check it out so that Todd's kind offer wasn't wasted on me.

Ah La Cart!

I had no plans last night. I volleyed with the idea of doing laundry but then ate dinner and sat on my butt instead. Then I started going through the mail and thumbing through the Ace Hardware ad. On the back page was a foldable cart. It has a 300-pound capacity.

Hmmm. Wouldn’t require a lot of storage space. Cost $19.95 (after $5 mail-in rebate). It's designed to help get all junior's stuff moved into the college dorm. Not at This D*mn House! Could be used to haul a whole lot of stuff up and down the driveway. (Containers of mortar, sand, brick.) I passed the ad to the mother, making that point. She glances and nods affirmatively. “But they fold that place up at six o’clock, don’t they?” Mom asks.

They used to, but I had noticed in recent months that they were staying open a little later now. Clock on the TV: 7:37 p.m. Store hours on the ad: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Should I try to go now? “Go for it,” says the mother, and tosses me a twenty. What a good mother! (BTW, this is the store just across the way from where that alleged murderer was captured recently.)

Humming the Mission Impossible theme, I grabbed my wallet and keys, threw on shoes, flew out the door and gunned the ‘Bird out of the driveway and toward town. Time in Ace Hardware parking lot: 7:44 p.m. (This included a stop sign and two stoplights en route.)

The salesgirl led me right to the display of the carts. There were three left. “Oh, I’ll get it,” she says, and grabs the straps on the box and hefts it up to the counter. As I wait for my change she asks, “Do you need some help out with that?” That made me belly laugh. Me. The Hulkess who has been winging around 60- and 80-pounds bags of mortar for weeks now. Me, idiot that I am, who pounds through six-inch-plus concrete slabs with hand tools. (The box is longish and awkward but weighs just a little more than a standard pail of cat litter and a little less than a case of water. ) “Uh, no, but thanks,” says I, grabbing up my purchase and heading for the door.

As I’m going out, a guy is coming in. I step aside so he can get in as he doesn’t show any sign of holding the door. (I welcome chivalry, but don’t expect it.) I am spinning around so my backside can push open the door when all of a sudden, the guy suddenly backs up and opens it. (I think the salesgirl gave him a dirty look.) Because I’m leaning slightly backwards, I nearly go hurtling through the door but caught myself in time. I guess the awkward step caught the attention of a guy driving a forklift in front of the store. “Need some help with that, ma’am?” he yells to me.

“Nope, I got it. Thanks.” But do you want to come and bust up some concrete?

(P.S.: The cart is great. All you have to do is attach the wheels. Just make sure you put the swivels on under the handle. I put one on wrong before I realized that not all four wheels swivel. It’s about 10 inches or so thick when you fold the handle down, and it’s maybe 30” by 20,” so very easy to store. But I don’t plan to store it anytime soon. It will be ferrying stuff up and down the driveway ‘til the PROJECT ends. If I don't turn it into a scooter. I couldn't resist the urge to try it on the smooth DR floor. Can't wait to try the driveway!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Strange Change

On days when my brain power is particularly low -- or when the AC in the building is cranked particularly high and I'm freezing -- I stop in the convenience store downstairs for a cappuccino. (One-third the cost of the Starbucks down the street and twice as good, I think.)

So one day last week, I think it was a combo of low brain power and high AC that sent me downstairs mid-morning. As I headed back toward the elevator, I glanced at the change in my fist. I noticed an odd silver coin that, initially, I thought might be Canadian. (For some reason, we get a LOT of Canadian change through here and I'm NOWHERE near the border! It seems to circulate just like American money.)

I thought that I'd received it instead of my dime. But no. There was a dime. Well, then I'd gotten it instead of one of the pennies. But no again. All the pennies -- as well as a nickel and a quarter -- were there, too. I'm not sure how or why then I ended up with it. But I marveled at it because 1) It's Jamaican and 2) It's a dollar.

It's about the same size as an American dime but with the thickness of a nickel -- and the shape of a heptagon. And, its value: almost 14 cents American. Judging from all the not so good financial news late in the day today, it may actually be worth as much -- or more -- than an American dollar.

An Alternate Plan

I've decided that I'm going to entertain some bids for demoing the remainder of the sidewalk.

However, rockhead that I am (pun intended), I've convinced myself to develop yet another alternative. (Yeah, you knew I was too stubborn for it to be that easy to just walk away, right?) Since a) this was the first of the blocks and b) it was semi-anchored to the porch and c) I now know what thickness is involved and d) it was also the biggest of the slabs, I might be able to get the remaining slabs up whole.

At any rate, my plan is to try to this week. (NOT tonight. I'm doing good today to move around though I'm not in as bad of shape as I'd feared. The sunburn actually hurts worse than my muscles!)

If it works, or almost works, great. There's my next step. If not, hand it over to some burly dudes.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back on the Chain Gang

Years ago, when they sentenced people to life at hard labor, they didn't do the sh*t I have today! Ambition aside, I'm exhausted.

I got most of my list done. I scrubbed cat boxes. I mowed. I hauled a trunkful of clippings to the dump. I even got the first piece of the concrete slab busted up.

I didn't get the monster root out nor did I finish my porch. Why? Because I clearly underestimated the thickness of the concrete walkway. I was expecting 3 inches deep tops. Try 6 inches at least! And breaking it up with a sledge and a pick-ax ... well, it was slow, tedious, and painful. The only thing different from being on a chaingang was the lack of anyone being shackled to my leg.

It was the biggest piece though, but it was also only the first one. I'm seriously thinking I need to see how much it would be to have someone come and finish and haul this crap away. There doesn't seem to be a word adequate enough to describe the exquisite pain my hands and wrists are in. (Agony comes to mind, however.)

I'm sunburned. I'm sore. I'm tired. But I had a long shower, ate my 54th Street leftovers, and am watching Meet Me In St. Louis. (Love this movie!) So, it all evens out I guess.

How Ambitious Am I?

During our second year at This D*mn House, the old widow lady on one side (we were bounded by them when we moved in) moved into a nursing home and a funny old couple moved in. Mr. M. would ALWAYS greet me whenever he saw me working outside with, "My, you're ambitious!" And I would laugh and sometimes tell him, "No. Just stupid with a touch of crazy."

Sadly, the Ms have both long since died, but I feel a little of that sentiment today. It is GLORIOUS outside. Sunny. 70s. Light breeze. I just unloaded my latest brick purchase and am going uptown to grab a few items before I delve into my day. My day, which includes the following list: Empty and scour catboxes and associated tread pads. Mow lawn. Cut out monster root Dago left during fence removal. Take all clippings, plus two bags from Carole's weed adventures, to dump. Break up first and largest concrete slab in walkway. And finally, last, but certainly not least: FINISH THE FRIGGIN'PORCH.

I'm hearing Mr. M. about now ... Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Hate R-A-I-N!

I beat Mother Nature at her own game today. I didn't even try to get anything done. Afternoon thunderstorms were in the forecast and I didn't want to chance getting started and being mid-project when they arrived. Especially since I need to mortar in my perimeter bricks and fill in the gaps with mortar.

She didn't disappoint. Ol' Mother kicked in showers just as I pulled into my driveway.

Instead, I spent the afternoon shopping with my mother. And, there was an especially silver lining in the cloud that impeded my progress. I ran into very dear friend CD at Wal-Mart. She had her two boys and her parents in tow! It was great to visit with C, see her mom again, and marvel at how those boys are growing. Absolutely incredible. Her eldest is off to camp next week and "the baby" will start kindergarten next month. Wow.

So, in about three and half hours, we went to Wal-Mart, spent a few minutes visiting, strolled through Kohl's (bought cute sandals I can wear to work), dashed through two grocery stores, went to Lowe's and bought 100 more bricks and a new exhaust fan for the bathroom (and used the last of my $10 coupons), picked up dinner at 54th Street Grill and got back home.

Tomorrow is supposed to be gorgeous with a high of 84 degrees. That means mowing the lawn, and, ideally, FINISHING THE PORCH and starting the walkway. I guess we'll see how it goes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Little Humor, DIY Style

It was a pretty good day at work. It’s Friday. The sun is shining (for now, anyway). And I’ve been a little on the giddy side for much of the afternoon. Not sure what the reason, but it’s a welcome feeling just the same. For the record, alcohol was not involved!

On that note, I thought it appropriate to break out some light-hearted DIY material.
Some time ago, I ran across this You Tube video of Weird Al doing a song called “I’ll Repair For You.” It’s a parody of the Friends’ theme song performed by The Rembrandts. The lyrics are hilarious and sound like a day around This D*mn House!
Long before I started the blog, I got an email with these photos in it on the hazards of hauling. As luck would have it, they’re making the rounds again! As many times as we have hauled tons of stuff home – and still do – in the Thunderbird, I had to smile. But even I wouldn’t try this. Elaine, please don’t let your husband talk you into this one!
Earlier this year, before I even revived the blog, I was talking to a friend about the movie Baby Boom with Diane Keaton. (Very cute movie.) Somehow, we also started talking about Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane. As the conversation wound down, my friend made a very keen observation: “You realize,” she said, “That you relate to those movies because they’re both about single women and both have a house project as a major subplot.” Oh. Yeah. I knew that. *disguising shock with smugness*

For weeks after that, I tried to think of other movies that have building a house or remodeling a house as a key theme. Most are comedies. This is what I came up with:

The Money Pit
Are We Done Yet?
Life As a House
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies
Father of the Bride Part II

(Technically, the first two of these are based on Mr. Blandings … Can you think of others? Feels like I’m missing something obvious.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kudos to the Blog, Part 2

I decided that there was just too much to be shared in a single post, so I split the award honorees up. Please display your E and honor 10 other blogs! (Or, at least honor SOMEBODY!) Having said that, let's move on to my Es:
Not So SAHM -- Vicki is spending her first week in the South after packing up and moving from the Midwest, with two small girls and two cats in tow. And she's blogging. Regularly. There almost should be some kind of medal for that. Vicki's two girls -- and baby Ashlyn in particular -- usually get me laughing as she shares her adventures as mom/business owner.
Whimfield -- Another of our neighbors north of the border. Laura-Jane's garden photos make me wish I had a green thumb. And, she is slowwwwly transforming Cameron into a tool junkie. Folks after my own heart!
Stealth Geeks Obsess -- The septic system saga, spurring poop on a stick, has been both sad and hilarious. And with six kids running around … OH! And it's a blog by three gals and their mom, with a hobby. (A hobby not related to poop on a stick.) What's not to like?
House on Red Hill -- First of all, anyone whose handle is Why … And one of my favorite recent things? The photo dubbed "Deck Chairs with Shop Vac." It's SO very DIYer with its subject AND in its environment. And it really made me laugh.
Dogs and Jen -- Jen's saga of the Cabinet Guy is reason enough for an honor. She's smart, witty, and resourceful, too. After CG and an ant invasion, figured she could use a happy post!
Tiny Old House -- Jennifer's battle to get back to the bricks has been intriguing. It's heartening to watch this little place get so much love and TLC. And now, she's trusting all of us to pick accent colors.
Foxcroft -- Love to watch Mike's progress and I really enjoy the history behind the house which he frequently highlights in a then and now fashion. But since history is part of his job, I guess it's a natural.
Stucco House -- I seem to be on some kind of a parallel with StuccoHouse. She's fixing sidewalks. I'm destroying them. She's salvaging trees. I'm pulling 'em out. My favorite thing of late: the detailed restoration of the ancient Tappan. COOL!
A Cotterpin House -- D not only keeps a great blog but the PHOTOS …Artistic and talented. You gotta love it. And holds the same view I do on to-do lists where the house is concerned. DON'T do them!
St. Louis Folk Victorian -- And last, but certainly not least, I had to get someone in a little closer to home. It's Kristy who not only is restoring her home, but has the time and energy to quilt and garden, too. Ah, youth!!!

And, during the past few weeks the blog has had visitors from all over the world. From Australia to Zimbabwe (OK not Zimbabwe, but both Botswana and Tanzania) we've had visitors stopping by. Multiple parts of England, Italy, Greece, France, Japan, South America, Bahrain, Israel, even Russia -- all represented in the visitor logs! And that's just SOME of the countries! Some of these folks have even come back. I'm both flattered and honored .

Kudos to the Blog

OK, so this little blogger is gonna get a big head pretty soon. The blog's been racking up some honors and interest from all over the world. I've just been too busy to stop and pat it on the back! Not to mention to appropriately thank our kind bestowers.

About a week ago, Vicki at Not So SAHM awarded This D*mn House an Arte y Pico award. It requires a little bit of preparation and thought to accept. (Hence my delayed acceptance.)

First, you have to pick five blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community, no matter what language they appear in. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.

Both the award winner and recipients have to display a link to the “Arte y Pico” blog so everyone will know the origin of this award. And, you need to show these rules.

Then, this week, Liz at A Constructed Life sent an E! our way, citing this as an excellent blog. Part of earning an E is having to share 10 sites that you think deserve an E of their own.

And now, having 15 blogs total to honor, I need to get going before they've all already been honored, huh? Note please, this is not as easy as it sounds considering that I am now reading at least three times as many blogs as I'm honoring. I also figure that some of you have to be left off my list so that others have someone to honor! :-) And the only reason you don't see KayO on the list is because, well, I don't want her to get tangled up in rules and "supposed tos" though she's an honoree in my book anyway. So, without further ado, in no particular order, the Arte y Picos go to:

Ann at Velvet Lava -- Someday, we have got to hang out together. Ann has two Yorkies and a Web site dedicated to not only to-die-for desserts, but short trips into the obscure, topped with sometimes passionate rants of a woman in the Southwest. Brains, beauty, and a vocabulary. And the pictures … 'nuf said.
Elaine at Bless This DIY Mess -- The stories of haulin' stuff home, the Catholic school background, and the creative ways of approaching each project have put us into the same siztheren. (Like brethren but sistern sounded too much like a well.)
Jayne at Dainty Digs -- Dispatcher by day, DIYer by night … nope, that's backwards. Love watching Jayne's progress on uncovering -- literally -- the original beauty of her Midwest home.
Old Stone House -- Why would we neglect our northerly neighbors? The rules don’t say I can't go to Canada. And this is a trip I can make passport-free. (Thoroughly enjoy the stories and I secretly envy the blog design. Still crossing my fingers for a sale so you can move onto your next adventure.)
Ben at D.C. Rowhouse -- In short, Ben (who's a she BTW) just cracks me up. Triumphs and tragedy and now adorable Penny thrown in the mix. Any DIY blog that has an injury tally box at the bottom … need I say more?

Thank you again, Vicki and Liz! (More to come including the E awards. Stay tuned.)

They Put the “Hard” in Hardware

If you have an older home, or just like older accents, you’re probably familiar with VanDyke’s Restorers. We’ve bought a variety of stuff from them over the years. Most recently, I bought some spandrels from them to make some shelves and have been on their mailing list again ever since.

Their catalogs, in fact, have prompted Carole on to the next project. (Not that she needs much prompting. My mother has never been the sort of person to do just one or two things at a time, finish those, and go on to the next. No. Let’s do 80 simultaneously instead. Long-term chaos is so much more preferable. Don’t misunderstand. It all gets done and turns out in the end. We just have very polar work approaches. But I digress).

She has already planned what she wants to do for the kitchen and bathroom. (As if outside and the two bedrooms weren’t enough for this year.) Enter the VanDyke catalog.

I’ll admit, they have a good sale going on right now for the cabinet hardware and the plumbing fixtures she wants, so I’ll cut her some major slack. (That’s the new kitchen fixtures she has picked out in the photo.) The big box places want twice as much and then some. And you know me. It’s online shopping. It’s sale prices. I’m there. That’s where the problem comes in.

I guess I’m spoiled. In today’s technology-driven world, I think of a catalog as a “companion piece” for a shopper. Simply a marketing tool to drive traffic to a Web site. Do tons of people really even use the enclosed order forms anymore? Do throngs flock to the 800-number except when they have trouble with the Web site? I don’t think so. I think they’re like me. They look at the catalog. But when the sale is made, it’s done online. Because if you want to buy fixtures at midnight, that’s the way to do it.

That’s why you’d think that their Web site would make this a seamless process. But it doesn’t. In fact, when I keyed in the product codes from the catalog, the search engine found nothing. Nada. Zip. Bupkiss. Zilch. Zero. Silly me. How dare I expect this to be easy? Same thing on two of the three product descriptions. Only through diligence (read: pissed off determination) did I find the items online that I wanted to buy. Or at least, I hope they’re the right ones. I can’t be sure.

Since hello! Once I actually found the items, they had a product number completely different from the catalog, even though the pictures, item description, and prices were the same. Awesome. Let’s confuse the process just a little more.

I guess that’s why they call it “hard”ware.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

When You're Good As Your Word

You've got to love a man who does what he says he is going to do. And my grandfather used to always say that you only are as good as your word. Well, that is my cousin Joe "Dago" to a tee! (My high school sistahs will remember him because most of them had a crush on him, the dashing high school football star.)

He promised me that either yesterday or today my old fence would be gone. He was better than his word. It's outta here. Do ya think we need a new one? (I snapped these two pics yesterday for posterity's sake, in full faith that Dago would come through.)

Speaking of new fence, that's it there on the pallet with its posts in the driveway, just waiting. Just a few more weeks.

A kiss and a big, huge hug to you, Dago. I owe you some beers one night real soon.