Thursday, April 30, 2009

True Signs of Spring

While I worked on the shed, our resident mother robin-to-be was none too happy with me. She did not like that I had my saw set up about 20 feet from her (and about six or so feet below her).
As long as I was over by the shed, she didn’t seem to care. She didn’t even mind the drill noise as I attached the boards. Even so, I had to very cautiously sneak this shot.

Meanwhile, at my neighbors, I was able to spy on the nest that another mama robin built in their small pine tree. Since it is so low to the ground, we’re keeping a very careful watch on it.

This mother was pretty unflappable. I didn't even notice her at one point and she still stayed put, unlike the mother on my side of the fence.

I guess when I went over with the camera though she must have been on a bio break or something because the nest was empty … except for these!


Outside of the never-ending rain, a cycle we appear to have slid right into, and the ultra-crazy temperatures, these are some of the surest signs of spring that I know. Pretty soon, I’ll be seeing cracked shells on the ground and hearing those high-pitched squawks. I can’t wait!

Partially Pimped

My shed is not pretty. What can I say? Here's what I can say:


*The entire exterior surface is now covered in vinyl/PVC siding.

*Together with all the interior work I did on it last year, it's probably 10 times more sturdy than some people's houses!

*It still needs trim. And paint. Those stark white boards just don't do a thing for it, I'm afraid. But painting season hasn't really started.

We've still got a few weeks yet. During those few weeks, it's just going to have to look ugly, awkward, and a little bit on the embarrassing side. Rome wasn't built in a day; you can't rush the proper pimpin' of a shed then, right? It cost a little more than I wanted and definitely took longer, but that's DIY isn't it?

The bottom line is that while it's just not that attractive right now, someday, with some trim and some paint, it will look more like this. (Only without the lattice. That's only on the back.) In this photo you can also see that I got both sides finished, too. Can't wait 'til the gray gets slapped on those.

Maybe then people will quit lookin' at me like I've lost my mind, scratchin' their heads and all but thinkin' out loud: Why are you covering up the gray with those white boards?

And at that point I'll no longer have to explain that some of the gray surface is rotten and the white boards will ideally nip it in the bud. And, those white boards won't be white boards forever.

So , for now at least, pimpin' remains in progress.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Testing Michelangelo

Before it got dark last night, the mother tried the Rustoleum paint we bought on one of the ceiling samples we received. (This is the pattern we ended up buying, too.)

Initial result was good, though the mother later said that hours later it was still tacky. "This isn't going to work," she announced last night. "We'll have to find some other paint." This was disappointing, considering that we already had been unable to purchase our first choice, Behr's Luminoso line's silver.

Then, this morning, she decided that it was the increased humidity that probably affected the drying time so dramatically. "This turned out pretty good."

I think it turned out good, too. If you didn't know this was poly styrene, would you think it was metal? I would.

In fairness, it really isn't paint weather right now. Too much rain and too much humidity. That's in part why the shed is such a priority.

I've wanted to get it done so that when paint weather does finally get here, it's already ready to paint.

But back to the ceiling ... I am quite pleased with it overall. I need to take down the textured wallpaper (in a tintype pattern) that is on the bathroom ceiling right now and then prime the ceiling.

The mother wants to paint the panels for the bathroom ceiling an antique white to match the main color in the rest of the bathroom. I'm thinking they would look cool black. But that's an argument for another post.

Right now, I need to start getting things ready for tomorrow when it's back to the grind. It was a good vacation overall with a good mix of work and play. I already need to start planning for the next round of it as there is plenty to do!

Sheddin’ A Little Light

While I was busy with the board exchange at Home Depot yesterday, the mother was looking at lights.

She’s been searching for a light for the kitchen for quite a while. She even bought one and took it back. She just couldn’t find one she liked. (It’s been nearly as elusive a search as for kitchen appliances that she likes.) It was always “too” something. Too big. Too small. Too expensive.

Whatever. The bottom line is that you have to have a light. But miracle of miracles she found one. Pretty, isn’t it?

I like it. I’m just concerned that it’s going to hang too low. I can see it now: Hi. Welcome to our new kitchen. Try not to dash your brains out on this low-hanging light fixture.

But, the mother isn’t listening, so there’s no point in continuing to voice this concern. Her response: I don’t care. (I love when she goes all 2-year-old in the reasoning department.)

We unboxed it last night. The antique brass finish clashes with the silver scheme that will ultimately be in the kitchen so she’s going to have to paint it. (At this rate, the mother is going to be painting something for every waking minute of her life and still might not get it all done.)

This is my last day of vacation and very nearly the last day of the month. I need to unpack the car (boards) and run and get the city sticker for the car. For some reason, our fine city thinks this antiquated annual practice provides enough revenue to continue it.

Most people I know don’t even bother with it. The mother though is fanatical about it. Even though technically the city gives you until May 15 each year to buy one, the mother insists that the stupid thing is in place by April 30 when it officially expires. Whatever.

So, I’d better get started. The weather forecast is calling for rain late in the day and I’ve got a shed to finish. Looks like I’m on a deadline …

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Errrrrr...Detour!

It was a day of detours.

The first one occurred when the mother ran into a childhood friend at Lowe's. She recently moved back to the area from Florida and they started a lengthy conversation. That chat turned into lunch at our favorite Chinese haunt.

After that, the mother and I had to go back from whence we came so we could hit Home Depot. I finally made my board switch (trading in trim and getting the final boards I need for the shed). And we picked up some silver paint to try on one of the samples we received for the Michelangelo project.

The next in a series of detours occured on the way home when the mother spotted a car at a dealership along the highway. We backtracked and went to check it out. From there, we we went to another car place in town. (It pays to compare.) So, i'm anticipating calls from both places later in the week ... if I don't call them first.

I'm just not sure we're ready to do the car thing. I'm still concerned about taking on more debt and much of what's on hand right now is already earmarked for the house.

Decisions, decisions ...

Nesting

Nesting. I've been reading about it for quite a while now.

Before the recession really hit hard, the home improvement stores were all aflutter with anticipation of all the business they'd get from DIYers who were focused on all things home since -- with gas at then $4 a gallon and up -- they weren't venturing that far away.

As little lights have sprung up here and there in the economy, I've started hearing the term again. And, of course, as spring has arrived, it's brought with it a whole new reference.



Granted, this is a much more literal interpretation of nesting. I was, as you can see, able to catch the mother robin on the nest while I was out working on the shed Sunday. She was not at all amused with me working in the yard.

She would frequently fly into the neighboring tree when I would walk to or from the shed to cut or install my boards. I would have thought that after several hours of this activity, she would become confident in the fact that I was not going to harm her. (I never even really got all that close to her on any one of my trips.) But, each time, she would fly out quickly.

And as I would complete the task and return again, she would again repeat her flight to the tree. Her mate would pace restlessly on the ground below, even walking near my work area a time or two as some sort of a show of strength. But he, too, would skitter away if I so much as moved.

I haven't really gone anywhere since Saturday. And yesterday, I barely left the house except to feed the birds, dump the trash, and get the mail. That changes today.

I'm going to Hardware Heaven yet again. This time, the mother, who is feeling better, will likely go with me. I'm sure we'll make a few fun trips, too. We've been talking about the various things we need to get done and the best order in which to pursue them.

For right now, I'm still hoping to finish the shed before I go back to work on Thursday. We'll have to see if Mother Nature is on my side.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Conspiracy Theory

It was Monday. I hate Mondays. It’s the hardest day of the week to get out of bed. I was supposed to be able to enjoy this one because once I put out the trash, I could go back to bed.

I did go back to bed. But, I didn’t get a lot of sleep. It seems that every time I turned the corner into Z-Land, something was there to harken me back.

Initially, it was Toby the Cat with his ceaseless yowling. I cleaned his box, tossed him some food and that seemed to placate him. At 8:30, with the trash delivered to the alley, I was boarding the Dreamland Express, Ozzie pressed firmly into the back of my legs.

I was roused by a hellatious noise from the alley. In talking to my neighbor across the way, I’d heard that our alley was scheduled to get some rock this morning. I’d heard this before. Our alley, which is more like a sidestreet than an alley, has been in sorry shape for years. So, it was long overdue.

I shouldn’t have been surprised then to see this.


I mean, I’m glad that we’re finally getting the long ago promised rock, but did it have to be today? (Of course it did.)

When it started to rain, as it has off and on all day today, the dump truck and Bobcat that later appeared on the scene took off. I fell asleep – only to be roused by the trash truck. (It had clearly been unable to get in the alley earlier, blocked by the road grader, dump truck and Bobcat.)

About 10:30, I gave up. It just wasn’t in the cards.

That’s not to say that I have done anything today. I haven’t. I’m blaming the weather. The occasional shower, followed by a steady sprinkle, has done nothing to motivate me.

I was going to go to Home Depot to do the board exchange, but maybe I’ll wait til morning. To borrow one of my favorite Scarlett O’Hara lines: Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, Schmonday

I have tried to be a good DIYer and a good blogger the past few days. Both of these activities have dramatically affected my ability to be a good blog reader.

Google Reader has recorded an obscene amount of entries that I've missed. So, I’ll apologize now. If you are accustomed to seeing me regularly read and comment on your blog, I may or may not have been there the past few days. Not that I’ve lost interest. Not that I have any less love for your adventures. I’ve just been waist-deep in my own. I’ll catch up. Honest.

And while I’m sunburned, sore, and exhausted, it feels good. It feels great to have the weather warm again and it feels good to be getting things done. And one of the best feelings of all – it’s Monday, and I’m going back to bed. Right after I take out the trash. (Vacation: Day One begins.)

I think I’ve earned it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stupid White Girl

What can I say? I'm just a stupid white girl.

Mind you, I'm not one of these fair-complected, snow-white types. Nor do I have that "natural beige" like a flesh-colored crayon. No. I have that ruddy complexion, the one that takes forever to tan. But the catch is, I burn. And burn. And burn. And burn.

Eventually, I tan.

I guess three consecutive days in upper 80s sun will tend to cook one. My arms, face, neck, and feet are proof of that. I'm currently alternating between the "my arms and face are on fire" and the "damn, I'm freezing!" stages of sunburn. Stupid white girl.

The upside: I got a lot done.

First, the yard is respectable again for the first time all season. Second, half the shed -- yes, half the shed -- is pimped! I don't have enough boards to finish the other half. (Berating self. Idiot!) I also didn't have enough daylight to have finished the other half by the time I got done with the first half and with the delicate matter of filling in around Tigger's grave.

Two of the three trim boards will have to go back. The mother doesn't want the trim on the sides. Whatever. I'm glad she told me this before I'd cut the piece for the side I did finish!

Rain is on tap for tomorrow and maybe the first half of Tuesday, so I probably won't get much farther. That, and the mother has to go get some tests sometime this week though I won't know when until sometime tomorrow. So, we'll see what happens.

An Interesting Discovery

When I was first working outside on Friday, I spied something with interest. If I hadn’t been looking up though, I’d have never noticed.

See this? Looks like a column and a storm drain. Well, it is. It’s one of the two columns that hold up the carport, the column that’s closest to the back of the house.

But look closer.


See! I told you there was something more there. It's right along the top of the drain. Do you see it yet?

Apparently, it’s a robin’s nest! I wasn’t sure what kind of bird was responsible for it because I never saw a bird near it the whole time I was outside on Friday.


But yesterday, I saw a robin flitting busily between this nest and the neighbor’s tree that is just beyond our property line. (You can see it in the first photo.

I’m not sure if there are eggs in it yet or not. It’s too high up to see. If I got a ladder tall enough to actually peer inside, I might scare the mother off and I don’t want to do that. Seems that there are going to be babies in the neighborhood though as my next door neighbors have a nest with THREE eggs in their pine tree. Mr. G showed it to me yesterday.

I’m always amazed by the care and precision that go into these nests. The birds use absolutely anything they can find to build these creations. In fact, while I was leaving Home Depot last night, a little sparrow flew right down in front of the car. I instantly braked, and as she flew away, I saw she was carrying several inches of green twine. I think we know what she was doing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Fought the Lawn

There’s a T-shirt that says, “I fought the lawn … and the lawn won.”

Not today it didn’t!

That’s thanks to one of my neighbors. Before I got outside, Mrs. C. came over and said, “I see you’ve got clippings bagged up. We’re going to the dump soon, so if you want we can just throw these in the truck so you don’t have to take them in the car.” I could have kissed her. But that would have been weird, so I didn’t.

Then, Mr.C. backed up his truck and we dumped the bags inside on top of his grass. He asked if I wanted to use some of his trash cans to collect the clippings from the back yard (which I hadn’t yet cut). He said he’d come back later and pick them up before he went to pick up his son-in-law’s clippings. (I could have kissed him, too, and while it wouldn’t exactly have been weird, it might have been ugly with his wife standing there.) Then, they even went to the neighbor lady’s across the way, took her recyclable clipping bags and a whole bunch of brush and threw those in, too. Talk about being neighborly!

The back yard, except for one section, was actually easier than the front to cut. And, using those trash cans made a HUGE difference. I’m guessing that between not having to fight with trash bags AND not having to make two trips to the dump, they shaved at least 90 minutes off the job! God bless them.

Then I hooked up our hose. I had to uncover the faucet and go downstairs and turn on the water to it. Then I unrolled the hose and put the sprayer on. I concluded that this sad ass excuse of a hose needs to be replaced. But, it worked well enough to spray off the A/C unit (it had a bunch of feathers and gunk and little furry tree pieces stuck to it) and clean down the mower. That’s all that mattered for now.

I was going to try and set up the saw and start cutting boards for the shed, but the mother decided that she felt OK enough to eat some Chinese. (Twist my arm.) so I came in and got a shower instead. It’s wonderful to feel like a person again because man, it’s been hot today!

I just made the first Hardware Heaven trip of my vacation (I needed trim for the shed) and then picked up food. All in all, it’s been a productive 24 hours. I would like to have gotten all the boards cut so that tomorrow I just need to put them up, but you have to ease into these kinds of activities, right? (Well, that’s what I’m planning to do at least.) After months of only occasionally hefting household stuff, trash or laundry, today was quite a work-out.

Right now, there’s an order of beef and broccoli with my name on it out there and I’m going to go claim it!

A Tale of Two Yards

You can’t tell it now, but the front yard was a horribly overgrown mess this time yesterday. (In fact, I think that might even be understating it.)

I made a few stops on the way home, went to the doctor with the mother (more on this later), and was still outside to the yard by 2:45. THREE mowings, four bags of clippings, and four hours later …

Oh, and it DID reach 90 (and felt every degree of it). Thankfully, the A/C is on and the house is SO comfortable. It really was the first thing I did when I got home yesterday!

You can’t really appreciate the yard unless you know how bad it looked to start with. (And I wasn’t smart enough to snap a before picture.) Ours was the only house in about a three-block radius that wasn’t neatly mowed. Since we get a lot of foot traffic, people were actually gawking and pointing, too. Embarrassing. Well, I guess they’re taking note of the difference today.

But, of course, there’s still the back yard. And Oh. My. God. I so do not want to deal with it. Here’s why. These pictures don't really do justice to just how overgrown it is. It's insane. But, it's my destiny, for today at least.


Assuming I survive that, I may start cutting boards for the shed. It should be a fun day ...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Break Out the Sandals!

While my toe is technically still healing, it's doing much better. Regardless, it's just going to have to deal today. I am NOT wearing socks and closed-up shoes on an almost 90-degree day.

Yes. You read that right. And no, I'm not on a desert vacation. It's just going to feel like one today. If we should hit 90, (projected high is 88) we will tie a record set in 1990!

I wore a long-sleeve shirt, sans jacket, to the office, and I had the sleeves rolled up before I started the car. (I drove to the office today. I'm only working 'til lunchtime and then (drumroll please) I'm outta here 'til THURSDAY!!!! Even though hell awaits me in the shape of an incredibly overgrown lawn, I don't care. Other than the January holidays, this will be my first time off work that didn't involve illness all year. And it's almost MAY! Sheesh.

Guess what the first thing is that I do when I get home today? Turn on the A/C. It was hotter than blue blazes in the house last night, even with multiple fans running. (And that was in the evening after a day that was cooler than today will be.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Cardinal View

In between running around to rugrat activities, I caught this view while waiting for the elevator. I would really have loved to be there instead.


It was, after all, an 8o-degree day and gorgeous. When I was at my desk, I could occasionally hear the roar of the crowd and a few times, fireworks went off. (Those must have been for Albert Pujols' two homers.)


I didn't hear the game-winning fireworks, but the Cards did sweep the Mets and won 11-8. YAY!

Coming Attraction: City Garden

I ran around like a crazy person all day. It was Bring Your Rugrat to Work Day (that’s my name for it) and I have volunteered most of the last six years for this event.


This year, I was the event photographer. So, my day was consumed with running from activity to activity, stopping periodically to download and edit the photos. I was on a tight deadline for some of this as the children were going to use some of my photos in the afternoon projects they were doing.


One of their afternoon activities was to go to the soon-to-be City Garden, the $30 million portion of the $100 million Gateway Mall project. It’s going to be a public “sculpture and landscape garden.” I’d heard or read about in passing but hadn’t been anywhere near the site, a 2.9-acre site, bordered by Eighth, 10th, Market and Chestnut streets, a few blocks south of the Old Post Office Plaza.


Features of the garden will include three impressive water features, a café overlooking the garden, an eight-foot limestone wall, and a state-of-the-art LED video wall.


One of my colleagues told the children it’s set to open in two months. I think they’ve got a lot of work to do in just two months! See for yourself.




It seems to me they've got a long way to go!

Deliveries!

All kinds of things arrived at This D*mn House yesterday.

The ceiling tile came in two flat boxes, one of which is quite heavy. The egg and dart molding (just for the kitchen) arrived in a third extra-long box. The heaviest of the three is currently propped up on the fireplace in the livingroom. The other two are conspicuously stowed in the dining room. That’s just until I can find a spot for them in the family room.

I haven’t ventured to open them up yet. I may do that tonight or I might just wait until tomorrow. Tonight is grocery night so I may not have time.

Then, the latest issue of This Old House came in the mail. I was exhausted last night but I flipped through a few pages, My eye gravitated to a letter from a reader who suggested that DIYers offer up their “longest-standing incomplete DIY project.” Well, the editor took him up on it!

Go here and share photos and descriptions of the DIY project that you just can’t ever seem to finish. The winning entry will be featured in a future issue of the magazine.

I think I only have two “long-term unfinished” projects at the moment. The oldest is trimming out the closet in the family room downstairs that Lawrence and I built in January 2008. Second in line is dismantling the old daybed and assembling the new one that I bought just over a year ago. (Of course, I didn’t do anything in the meantime like putting up a fence and bricking the porch and walkway …)

What’s your longest-running house to-do that is as yet undone?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Mixed Bag

Today started out really well. Lots of kudos all around for the work I did that I considered a failure.

Then, this afternoon, something related to the project, but not to the thing that everyone was so happy about, came up. It was my fault and I dropped the ball. What was most upsetting to me was that one of my colleagues took some initial fire for it. Further upsetting, was that the person to whom I owed the apology shared a little of the blame, but that, of course, would never come up. Such is life.

We had to tell my boss about it and I was properly mortified. The bottom line: I made a mistake. I apologized. Accept that I’m human and it’s going to happen occasionally. Move on. (The person I’m telling this to is me.) It seems to be OK now – I guess.

I’m consoling myself in the fact that I only have another day and a half of work this week and then it’s vacation. And the forecast has even changed AGAIN. Now, no rain until Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yeah. Right. We’ll see.

Life After Tuesday

It’s amazing to me what a difference just 6-7 degrees can make. Yesterday morning, it was 41, I had on a real coat, and I was COLD. Today, it’s either 47 or 48 – depending on which news source you believe – I have on a rain jacket and a ¾-length sweater and I’m comfortable.

It’s also amazing to me how when I’m in a bad mood, it’s like the universe conspires to aggravate me. I was not in a good mood last night. Yesterday was something of a disappointing day as a week’s worth of efforts didn’t seem to move me anywhere. (I tend to be among my harshest critics, so to say I felt as though I’d failed would be a gross understatement. Did I mention, I really don’t like to fail.)

I went through a drive-thru and stopped to grab a few other items on a quick run uptown after work. When I got home, I quickly changed clothes and was preparing to sit down to eat. Before I could, the mother unwraps her order to discover that the one thing I said NOT to put on it is the ONLY thing on it. I grabbed the receipt. It was correct. The order was not. Had it been mine, I’d have sucked it up. But it was the mother’s. Enough said.

Back I went where I presented my receipt and asked for the sandwich I had ordered. Luckily, they were apologetic as opposed to antagonistic as some fast-food folks are when something is wrong. I might have gotten medieval with them otherwise.

Then, there are times that the mother just will not listen to me. Last night was one of them.

She was trying to find out when “Life After People” was going to be on. I knew she’d seen the prequel to the series that debuted last night, so I looked to see when the series was starting. 9 p.m. (Me, I could give a sh*t less about life after people. If we get to the point where there are no people on the planet, this impacts me, who obviously is one of the people no longer there, how?)
The mother scrolls through the guide menu and sees that "Life After People" is on from 7-9 p.m.

TM: Hey, I thought you said this wasn’t on until 9.
NV: No, what I said was that the series isn’t on until 9. This is the precursor to the series. You already saw it.
TM: But this says it started at 7. (She points to the onscreen description: Life After People, 7-9.)
NV: Right. It did. It’s the one you’ve seen.

At this point, I grab my remote (we each have one) click to the menu and show her where the one is that starts at 9. She reads the description.

TM: Well I haven’t seen that one before.
NV: No, you haven’t. No one has. It’s the series debut. It’s the first one in the series.
TM: But you said it didn’t start until 9. I haven’t seen that one.
NV: It doesn’t start until 9.
TM: But it’s on – now.
NV:
No, it isn’t.
TM: Yes, it is. (She clicks to the channel where the two-hour precursor that she has already seen is on and in progress.)
NV: That is the part that you’ve already seen. The series, which is new, starts at 9.

This goes on for another five minutes during which she tells me there’s all kinds of things they haven’t discussed on this show, like what happened to all the people. Well, reading the series debut description, the bodies are something they’ll discuss.

TM: They haven’t talked about that yet.
NV: Right. That’s on tonight’s show, on the series premiere.
TM: Did you say that’s on at 9?

I want to yell: Yes – only 60 times in the last 10 minutes. Instead, I beat the remote control against my forehead. Perhaps this is why I didn’t have children.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

She's At It Again

Apparently, I was too busy patting myself on the back for having taken vacation time during an all-dry spell with elevated temperatures (according to The Weather Channel) to notice that the forecast had changed. They’d added rain to both the weekend and Monday.

Luckily, it’s changed again. “Isolated showers” forecast for late Sunday into Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday still look dry. For now.

I really need the dry weather so that I can whip the yard into shape (and I’m dreading that) and finish the shed. Those are two things that have to get done while I’m off. Speaking of off, it’s like my brain thinks vacation is already here. It’s zoning out pretty much at will. Case in point: I had to look up the last name of a colleague who sends me things every day.

If tracking is to be believed, the ceiling tiles along with the molding for just the kitchen should arrive tomorrow. That’s only been eight or nine months in the discussion phase!

I don’t know where I’m going to put them. I guess I’ll have to jam them into the family room somewhere. That place has become a nightmare. Soon though, we’ll be clearing it out and all these things will finally be in their proper place.

UPDATE: Apparently Mother Nature has gotten word that I’m on vacation at the end of the week. Pay particular attention to the forecast for Sunday through next Thursday. Can you even believe that she is trying to do this to me AGAIN? A repeat performance of last year?

OK. OK. Mother Nature, I hear ya. You want to play tough, eh? I got the message.

But guess what? I’ve got a message for you, too. Here it is, courtesy of one of my favorite imaginary people on the planet.

The Price Is Blight

I’m sure everyone has parts of town that are less than what they once were. Conversely, you’ve probably got areas that are – or at least were – alive with new construction.

Most towns are made up of that area in between. But what I’ve noticed about my town lately, reinforced by a cold hard look on the way in today, is a growing amount of blight. Buildings that should be torn down before they just fall down. Or vacant lots where both commercial and residential properties once stood.

A lot of new retail and restaurants have appeared, or else existing ones have undergone dramatic remodels. But the price for this has been for so many of the old, family-owned anchor businesses to close up shop. (I call it the Wal-Mart Syndrome.) And, even some of the new shops and restaurants have disappeared, in most cases I'm sure thanks to the economy.

Except for the school district and a steel mill (which is currently idled and could be well into next year), we’re a bedroom community. We rely on the lifeblood of the region. It’s kind of a scary place to be.

That hasn’t, however, stopped the county from raising property taxes. The assessment came the other day and it appears to have gone up another $1,000. It’s good news in that the fair market value of my property then has increased by $3,000. The bad news is that that means there’s another $300+ I’ll be paying taxes on. Seems all the hard work got plenty of the tax man’s attention.

I guess I should be grateful. I could always be one of those folks with a mortgage that exceeds their property value.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stock of Stupid Pills Jeopardized

There must be a marked shortage of stupid pills in the universe today. That’s because I think the vast majority of the supply has surely already been consumed.

I offer up these exercises in asinine from today’s headlines to back my theory.

Iran's Leader Sparks Western Walkout at UN Meeting – Um, maybe I missed something but why was this total nut job allowed to speak at a conference on, of all things, diversity? This megalomaniac, who denies that the Holocaust ever happened, wants to “wipe out” Israel, (and the Western World too, if the truth is told). Here. Deny this. And he’s a headline speaker on diversity, why again?

Almost 1 in 10 Young Video Game Users 'Addicted'WHERE are the parents? Do you know how many pieces a video game in my house would have been in when I was growing up if it had “interfered with school performance, disrupted interaction with family and friends and posed health problems?” Too many to count, that’s how many! And childhood obesity … should that be a surprise when the only thing that these kids are “working out” are their eyes and their thumbs?! Get on your bike. Play outside. MOVE around!

Man Pretending to Fall Off Bridge Actually Falls – I guess you can chalk this one up to inebriation, plain and simple. But still, this takes dumb*ss drunk antics to a whole nother level.

Dog-fighting videos at heart of Supreme Court case – Can’t get to an illegal dogfight in your neighborhood? Well, just get the video instead! WHAT?! Explain to me how the act itself is illegal but selling tapes of it isn’t. This doesn’t have a d*mn thing to do with freedom of speech. It has to do with some sick bastards cashing in on animal cruelty (which is illegal). And videos of a woman in spiked heels crushing small animals? How sick do you have to be to enjoy that?

British singing sensation Susan Boyle offered $1 million to star in porn flickSick? Twisted? No. Those adjectives don’t begin to go far enough. Sorry. I’m out of words on this one. Speechless.

Green, Green Grass of Home

The vegetation is lush and green. It is thick, almost as thick as it is tall. It is everywhere. It has taken over.

It’s my lawn – and I’m horrified.

It’s almost as bad as one of those 1950s B-movies. I half expect to see yard, a row of dandelions in full bloom atop it, sitting in my livingroom, watching cable. It loves the garden segments.

Two days of non-stop rain –and the fact that I didn’t mow last week – are to blame. I’m thinking I may have to spend the next two evenings trying to undo it. And it’s not going to be easy. Especially since I still have that bitch of a lawnmower that doesn’t like even damp grass, so tomorrow may be too soon to even attempt it.

It’s times like these that a husband or a teenager would come in handy. They could be dispatched to deal with such things. Sigh.

On a more positive note, the mother seems better this morning. Here’s hoping it was a bug and it’s on its way out. Good riddance. I’m equally hoping that Lysol really does kill 98 percent of germs that cause viruses and that the remaining 2 percent didn’t find their way into my system. The last thing I want or need is to spend vacation – which starts Friday afternoon – in bed!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Washout

The good news: The mother seems to be a little better. AND, so is my toe. Not much, but a little better. I haven't been on it much, so that may be why.

The bad news: It's been raining all day. ALL DAY. There have been a few brief respites, but few. That means that the already too tall grass will look like the Amazon by the time the rain stops.

It's been a day of napping and making sure the mother has whatever she needs. Today, that included "real" food, something other than soup and jello, for the first time in about five days. I'm taking that as a good sign.

I managed to knock myself out last night and I slept almost straight through until about 10 a.m. After that, I did some running around in the rain. It's just crazy how much it has rained since last night.

Maybe the rain will help wash away all the bad stuff. It seems to be working.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ibuprofen, To Thy Work

I'm preparing to take a prescription strength ibuprofen. As the day has worn on, my previously-believed-to-be-healing toe has hurt progressively worse. What is the damn deal anyway?!

Now, my entire foot has decided to join the party. I guess I should be thankful that the headache I had earlier has stopped. Maybe the pain is a result from all the money I parted with since yesterday, and am contemplating bidding a bon voyage tomorrow.

Yesterday, I bought the ceiling tiles for the Michelangelo Project and paid the homeowners' insurance. (Waving goodbye to the paycheck I just got, and then some.) Lowe's is advertising some tile that, at least in the ad, looks like a good color for the bathroom. Not bad for a $31 investment. And, I have a discount card for Home Depot that expires tomorrow. What to buy, what to buy ... there's still so much sh*t we need, I don't know where to start.

I made beds and am now in charge of the creatures, both of whom are behaving for the moment, But wait 5 minutes. It's apt to change.

I'm watching a movie that I was perfectly prepared to change the channel on, but then Colin Firth appeared. Oh, don't tell me that this chick is going to break his heart. Colin, I wouldn't break your heart. (What is it about those Brits? D*mn.)

I had hoped that the mother was doing better, but now I'm not sure. I at least got her to go in her bed and vacate the sofa so that I don't have to tiptoe through the rest of the house. (One of the pitfalls of a small house and of a 1940s layout.)

I keep checking on her every little while, but I won't lie. We could very well end up at the hospital tonight. I'm praying not. I covered her up about 40 minutes ago so I'll need to check again soon. Cross your fingers ...

Foiled

I had plans today. Fate apparently saw things differently. Fate seems to be toying with me lately.

Yesterday was harried and frantic and down to the wire. I rarely have plans right after work, so of course, on one of the rare occasions that I do, I find myself dealing with the West Coast on Friday afternoon. Five o’clock came and went, and I was OK with that. I didn’t need to leave until about 5:45.

At 5:30, I was getting a little edgy. The phone finally rang at 5:40. The info from that call was not all I’d hoped. I had to wait for a second call. 5:50. 5:55. Just before 6, the phone rang. Bingo!

I finished a very important email and shut down. By this time, it was almost 6:05. I had already planned to be on the train. The next one was less than 15 minute off. I had to scoot!

I made my destination just minutes before our planned meeting time. I barely got the words “upstairs” out of my mouth at the reception area when one of my friends appeared. Two more would appear an hour and a margarita later.

Let me say this: I hope that everyone has people in their lives for which time just stops the way it does for me with this group. Doesn’t matter if it’s one or two that I get together with, or the whole lot of them, the effects are still the same. I don’t know what I did to get lucky enough to have them, but I’m more grateful for it than I could ever express.

We hit 50 percent, gathering half of our merry band of eight. I was joined by cd, plumbelieve, and the illustrious B (she who gives 867-5309 as her phone number). MonkeyGirl was with her mister for his birthday. (By the way, Happy Birthday Mr. Monkeygirl!) Laura and her husband were at a birthday party. And teacherlady? Well, she’s got some splainin’ to do. She didn’t study on a Friday night all through school. Why now?! And Maria. Here’s hopin’ she was kickin’ it up out west.

I was home before midnight. I was in bed about 30 minutes later. I wouldn’t be there long.

I know I’d mentioned that the mother’s been sick. Well, she’s really sick. I’m really afraid she’s got the bug my assistant had a week ago. It cost me some sleep last night. Between the mother, and Toby the Cat, I had more Margaritas than I got hours of sleep last night.

That’s where the “foiled” part comes in. As I type this, I should be getting dressed. I was supposed to be hangin’ with the MonkeyGirl, MamaMartha, and Harriet at National Scrap Book Day today. Clearly, my plans have changed. (Fate’s really trying my patience here.)

It appears to be all quiet on the eastern front for now. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Frantic Friday

This apparently was the day that I should have saved the beer o’clock title for. Let me summarize by saying that today I earned my money and someone else’s.

Having said that, and having had that kind of day, it is with more delight than I can properly convey that I can tell you that I will soon be on my way to join friends. I do plan to kick back a few cold ones. And while I don’t know what else the evening may have in store, I can tell you that I’m ready to enjoy it.

It’s been a particularly gorgeous day (sunny and 70s) and one that I’ve been able to enjoy precious little of. (This is what the weather in my version of Heaven would be like, except it would include a beach.) That said, I’m out the door. Or, I will be very, very soon.

Here’s hoping for a fabulous weekend for all of us!

The Visitors

When I got home last night, the mother says: “We had visitors today.”

Really? Who?

“The Smiths.” That made me laugh, because me, being me, immediately pictured Morrisey and the gang. (Sings in head: I am human and I need to be loved. Just like everybody else does.) Then, I quickly flashed to a cousin whose married name is Smith.

“What’s so funny?” Nevermind. The mother wouldn’t get it even if I did bother to explain. Who are they and what did they want?

It turns out that Mr. Smith, or Smitty, has been being nagged by his wife to pour a concrete walkway – and maybe a patio – at their house. They live four or five blocks from This D*mn House and apparently Smitty knows me by sight not only because he watched my progress all last summer on the walkway, but he also is a driver on my route! Of course, he drives VERY early. He’s already returning from his second run when I board, but his bus is going in the opposite direction. He and his wife were taking a walk yesterday and he decided to stop by.

OK. That’s interesting. But what does he want with me?

“He wants you to call him. He wants to talk to you about the walkway.” That really made me laugh. Me? What in the hell do I know about anything? My walkway is hardly the picture of precision. Even so, I like to think it shows a little character of its creator. (Or maybe just that its creator is a character.)
So I called him – and he wasn’t home. (Pause for real-time update: The Brothers Weird have just boarded and now both are sitting directly across from me. Time for the iPod!) I reached him on what I had said would be my last try of the evening.

We talked for about 15 minutes and I walked him through the various steps from last year’s project. Like a lot of people I talk to (and probably how I was before I did this work) he’s under the mistaken notion that brickwork is cheap, quick, and easy. On easy, it isn’t rocket science, but I got a whole new level of respect for professional masons after doing this.

Cheap? Depends on how much ground you’ve got to cover. (He would be getting his bricks for free. That would eliminate roughly half of the cost.) And as a DIY project, it will likely cost you a half to a third of having it professionally done. Quick? What’s your skill level? And how many people are helping? Because he would be digging out the ground to put in the bricks, this will be the most intensive part of the job. I at least had the beginnings of a trench after taking out the sidewalk. He also would have somewhere to store both the gravel and sand in bulk. I didn’t so I had to go with as much as I could haul and protect at any one time.

His conclusion: “Sounds like a lot of work.” I agreed. “I guess I’m going to do it anyway. But I really like how that looks. Can I call you if I get stuck?’

I don’t know how much help I’ll be, but sure.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Va*cay*shun

I finally put in for some vacation time. I had pondered taking the latter half of this week, but work came my way.

In fact, the project is going much better than I expected it to. (LOVE when that happens. Hope I haven't jinxed myself now!) Now, if only it can all come to fruition. Is that the sweet smell of success I’m picking up? Crossing fingers …

I’ll be off starting next Friday afternoon and not return until the following Thursday. Here’s hoping the weather will work in my favor and I can get a lot done! I'd really rather be kickin' it on a beach somewhere, but if wishes were fishes and all that.

One thing that has to be done before then: mow the lawn. That stuff is really starting to get out of control. Have you had your first mow of the season yet? If not, how high is your grass?

Calculating

The mother appears to have some kind of bug. I’m hoping it’s not the same one that leveled my assistant last week, prompting an ER visit. And I’m hoping to hell that I don’t get it.

I’ve been scrubbing my hands regularly and I think I’ve gone through a half-can of Lysol already. I finally got her to go to bed last night; she’d been crashed on the sofa. That left me in charge of Toby and Ozzie, both of whom were alternately being pains in the butt. (Their collective sense of timing at being obnoxious is scary.)

In between the evening routine and trying to keep those two out of trouble, I measured the bathroom, the kitchen, and the family room for ceiling tile. Step One of the much discussed and long-delayed Michelangelo Project: determine an amount and order material. In the kitchen, I also had to measure for the trim. It’s the one room where we’re going to get the matching egg and dart molding.
While I’m on this ordering frenzy, maybe I can finally order those two new bases for the columns on the porch. With all the rain we’ve been getting lately, it would be great to have those in place.

And since I’m doling out money, I guess I’d better go ahead and pay the homeowner’s insurance. The tax bill will be coming soon enough.

That’s one thing about owning property – it’s never really paid for in full, is it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

St. Louis Architecture: Union Trust

I see the Union Trust or 705 Olive building just about every day. I catch the bus home very near it each day.
I’m still not tired of it.

Granted, its groundview storefronts are funky looking.

They are in serious need of an update.



They are, unfortunately, a shadow of the beautiful building that was completed in November 1893.

At 15 stories, it was the tallest building in St. Louis at the time. The building originally had a roof top observatory which was later used as a beer garden. (You can sort of see that on the left tower roof in the old photo, circa 1900.)

So we've established that the building has, in fact, seen better days. But look upward toward the topmost floors and you will see some of the most beautifully ornate features found in St. Louis architecture today. (That’s my opinion anyway.) Luckily, several of its best features were left in tact.

The building’s two towers have a gorgeous row of bay windows between them.


And, of course, if I am so fascinated by it, you know that it must have a gorgeous cornice to top things off!


This building definitely does not disappoint in that respect. It even throws some columns in for good measure.

These griffins, or “bearcats” as architect/designer Louis Sullivan supposedly called them, are all over the place.

In the photo above, you can see that there is one between every set of columns. But it's only when you zoom in that you really get an idea of just how fabulous they are.

Don't you almost feel like they could take a bite out of you?! Grrrrrr!

Made you jump, didn't I?

They’re scary, but beautiful.

You can see a rendering of the original face of the building here. You can see the decorative detail that surrounded the round windows. Yes, I said round. Please make a note of that because you aren't going to see round windows on the front of the building now.

Those windows – and the two-story arch entryway – were casualties of a complete remodel in the 1920s. Can you believe some idiot covered those up?!

However, if you sneak along the side of the building, in an alley between Union Trust and another building I hope to feature soon, you get an idea of what they were like but without the fancy adornment surrounding them.


I still can't believe someone covered those up! At the very least, they should face a firing squad.

OK. Maybe that's a little too harsh, but not that far off of being exactly what they deserve in my book.

At least for now, it doesn't appear to be in any immediate danger of having anyone else tinker with what first made it so great more than 115 years ago.

I'll be the first one in line to protest if they do.


Sun Alert!

Attention ladies and gentleman: Do not be alarmed. That strange cast of light is none other than the sun! YAY!

And we need every ray of it that we can get this morning – it’s only 36. BRRRR. I actually had to put a coat on again. Luckily, I don’t think I’ll need it this afternoon as we’re allegedly headed for the 60s. Here’s hoping.

Last night, the mother had cooked a roast. I could smell it before I even opened the door. But I had to bypass it to run across town and pick up a few things, chiefly my allergy meds. I was hurrying because Gone With the Wind was on at 7. Well, I’ve seen this movie plenty of times, so I knew I had at least 10 minutes past start time before the actual movie got rolling. (It was on TCM and they show it complete with entry music and all the opening credits. Love it!)

This is among my favorite movies. And it’s my favorite Clark Gable movie.

Love that guy. He was a nice looking guy but his appeal wasn’t just that.

To me anyway, he had a presence that not a lot of actors before or since have ever had. (Am also particularly fond of It Happened One Night, and Mutiny on the Bounty, versus a particularly wicked Charles Laughton as Capt. Bligh, A really young Gable, sans mustache, is particularly hot as Mr. Christian.)

Except for getting stuck in line in my hurry to get home, it was a good night all around. Smells of good food wafting through the house, enjoying a good meal and goofily offering up our favorite lines from the movie.

It was the perfect way to end what had been quite the gray day.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

11 Tasks for April

IF the sun ever decides to show its cowardly face again, and IF Spring will sprout some cajones and FINALLY kick Ole Man Winter to the curb, maybe, just maybe I can say the word vacation in a serious tone of voice.

Remember that stroke of genius I had alluded to yesterday, the one that would immediately resolve my footwear dilemma? Well, be careful what you wish for.

I thought that since I wasn’t doing a lot of profitable projects at work, that this might be a good time to schedule a few days off. (Especially since I just discovered yesterday that I now qualify for FOUR FULL WEEKS! I didn’t think that happened until next year.) And I thought that being at home, the flipflop would be great. AND it’s supposed to be beautiful the next few days, disappearing just in time for the weekend to roll around again. So I thought I could work as much or as little as my toe will allow.

And maybe I could even finish the shed. Wouldn’t that be grand?!

But a project fell from the sky and landed squarely in my lap. It’s not something I would have hoped for, but work is work. (I guess, moving forward, I need to be more specific when wishing.) Between that work, and some live wires on another project I really do enjoy, things picked up. So, vacation time is postponed. That’s definitely not a bad thing; it’s just that I kind of had myself set in vacation mode. (Except for a couple sick days back in January, I’ve not taken any time off this year yet.) I looked at the rising unemployment numbers though and quickly got over it.

While checking the 10-day forecast at Weather.com to see if waiting until next week made sense, I happened upon this home maintenance checklist of tasks for April. I thought about half of them made good sense. I wasn’t sure why exactly April was the best month for others.

But, you can judge for yourself.

Tax Trauma

It’s April 14. Do you know where your W-2s are? No? Me neither.

It occurred to me Sunday night that I still hadn’t done my state taxes. Federal and the work state were filed months ago. I’ve already gotten refunds back more than two months ago. But Illinois? No.

So last night, I got my tax booklet out and thought: Maybe the state has progressed enough that I can efile on my own? I found at at the IDOR site that no. We’re still in the Neolithic age. I still can’t file online because I get credit for taxes paid to another state. Well, OK. We’ll do it the hard way.

There was just one problem with that: I STILL couldn’t find my W-2s. I looked everywhere they should have been. Even a few other likely spots, but no dice. I found a lot of the mother’s Medicare paperwork and reams of info on her supplemental insurance. And I did manage to easily locate W-2s from years 2003 through 2007. Go figure.

By this time, I’m starting to panic just a little. If I couldn’t get this done tonight, that left me just one more night to work it out. Then, it occurred to me, that at least once, in addition to figuring my state tax (to make sure my numbers were good), I actually had my online service file them. Not last year, but a year or two before. Since it costs more, I usually just have them do the math, make notes of what boxes and stuff to look for and then use a paper form. (I already pay them to do federal and one state.)

But my home state is the bear. They have a schedule and a worksheet and you have to send both the other state and your federal forms to them, too. So, going online would simplify the process dramatically.

Happily, I discovered that if I paid my online preparer, they could file my state tax online. WTF? Why if I pay someone to do it, can it be done? So not getting that.

I did, however, cheerfully approve the transaction – especially once I discovered that the preparer automatically filled in 90 percent of the information. I had only to provide a few numbers that I didn’t need W-2s for. Whew. Got that done and with little time to spare!

I know that one of these days, when I’m not even thinking about them, I’ll find those W-2s. Such is life at This D*mn House. Now, here's hoping that sometime very soon -- if not already -- I find an email telling me that my tax form has been accepted!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Home Is a Refuge

There’s a lot of crap out in the world today. It’s nice to be able to come home, close the door behind me and – if I truly want to block all of it out – turn off the television. There. All gone.

I’m lucky that way. For me, home is a refuge from the ravages of the outside world – but it wasn’t always. And for so many others, it’s still not.

Even if you have escaped domestic violence, survived sexual abuse or another violent crime, those experiences never really leave you. If you’re lucky – like I think I am – you come to terms with them. You, ideally anyway, reach a point where you can leave them lay (maybe pausing to stomp on them a time or two) and then move on stronger for having vanquished them.

And if you’re really lucky – again, I’m in this category – you might even find a way to put that emotional garbage to good use. That’s why I feel privileged to have a guest post today on Maggie’s (she of Okay. Fine. Dammit.) other site, ViolenceUnSilenced.

Domestic violence may be a hard thing to comprehend, particularly if you’ve been spared. But don’t for one second think it has never touched your life. You just may not know. It could be happening right now to your co-worker, friend, neighbor, aunt, sister or daughter.

The statistics are that one in four women (and one in nine men) will experience it during her lifetime. You and three friends or you and three sisters. Chances are, one of you knows domestic violence intimately.

That’s just one of the more insidious characteristics of this epidemic. No one wants to talk about it. Whether it’s fear or shame or whatever it may be, these victims are silenced by it – when speaking out is what very well may save them. And God bless Maggie for providing a forum!

I’ve always known that I’m luckier than most and some of the stories shared on this site have shown me just how lucky. But I understand their stories and feel them more than I like to admit. That is, however, what the Violence UnSilenced site is all about. It’s about exorcising those inner demons and either finding the strength to escape an abusive situation or sharing insight on how you have gotten past it to hopefully empower others who are still trapped.

I hope you’ll check it out and support the other contributors. And, if you can relate to these stories, consider sharing yours, too. If you’re still in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, it may be just the message you or they need to hear.

Mushy Monday

My thoughts this morning are like an audio collage of all things rain.

In one part of my head, Supertramp is singing “It’s Raining Again” (and I hate that song) while in another Emma Thompson is repeatedly saying: “Stupid, stupid rain!” (From the movie “Impromptu.”) And God help me, but in still another part, the Carpenters are chiming in with "Rainy Days and Mondays." That's something I definitely don't want stuck in my head. AAAAAAARRRGGHHH!

And my Nano – ever the correct weather forecaster – has played in succession: “Here Comes the Rain Again” by the Eurythmics, “Rain King” by Counting Crows, and Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain.” I ought to see if I can sell its services to The Weather Channel as I think it's right more than they are.

It’s all very appropriate. It rained on and off all night last night and has been continuing again since early this morning. In my mind, that brings out just one adjective to describe it: mushy.

The yard let out an audible “splurgh” sound as I walked across it earlier.

OK. Enough with the rain already. What I really want? A flip-flop. The buddy-taped toe is not going to last in this shoe. Somehow, I don’t think the flip-flop would be considered work appropriate. Even so, I still want it. It worked quite well at home.

Not sure how I’m going to make it through today, much less the rest of this week. I’ve got an idea though. We’ll see today if it’s a viable one. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hot and Cold

I got up this morning with the intention of getting an early start (10-ish) and whacking out as much of the shed job as I could.

But it was not to be.

First, it wasn't nearly as warm today as yesterday. This was compounded by an occasional tornadic like wind and an ever-growing gray sky. (It only just started raining though in the past hour or two.)

Second, my toe was swollen to about twice its size. And third, because I had been putting my weight onto my right side most of yesterday, that seemed to have irritated that leg again and, in turn, my back.

So, I spent much of the day with ice on my toe and heat on my back. I even took a nap!

I felt like a slacker, but at least I did get something done this weekend. And hey, I tried, right?

Hoppy Easter!

I had some company during my work day yesterday ... this little guy.

He started out in the yard a few yards away from me but ran for cover when the power tools started in. He remained under the neighbors' pine tree the rest of the afternoon. (This has been a favorite site of rabbits who love to burrow in the dirt beneath it to escape the scorching sun of summer.)

I couldn't help but think The Easter Bunny has arrived!

Happy Easter everyone. Have a joyous and safe day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wimp!

Yup. I'm a wimp.

By the time I got the shed cleared out to get to my tools and got my work area set up, my toe was throbbing. After padding and taping it, I had jammed it into a shoe. After an hour of hobbling around, it made itself known that it was very unhappy indeed.

I hadn't gone to the trouble though of spending all that time clearing things out and then setting up for nothing. So I soldiered on.

I no sooner laid the sawhorses in the yard than I saw my neighbor turning the corner on his lawnmower. Since he is good enough to cut it, I moved them out of the way.

I took a needed break after which it became clear that I could NOT put that shoe back on. Once out of the shoe, it actually did feel better. So, I walked on the back of the shoe the rest of the day. It was slower and required a little more caution, but it worked!

The mother was lecturing me the entire time but it was such a lovely day! How could I possibly not try to accomplish something? The weather is so fickle, I thought it best to get somewhere rather than nowhere. And, so here is where I got.

I finally gave in and called it quits. I swept the driveway (where the neighbor had thrown grass all over the place), cleaned up my mess, put everything away and then came in and ate. The mother made a pot of stew that was twice as good as it looked and it looked great!

Not exactly a stellar opening to this new season of "Pimp My Shed" but I guess it's better than nothing. We'll see if I can resume tomorrow!

Primin’ for Pimpin’

It's going to be a beautiful day (sunny, dry, 60-ish) and I'm going to get something done. Or at least started.

It’s still a little too cool outside so I’m bidin’ my time before I go out and start on the shed. It’s about time I stopped plannin’ and talkin’ and started doin’ some real bonafide DIY again.

I’m a little slow today, thanks not only to my still wayward back, but to a toe that’s likely broken. It crashed into a furniture leg late last night while trying to dodge creatures. (Yeah, I really needed that right now.)

I guess I’ll buddy tape it once I get dressed. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing you can do for it and all they would do at the ER. (I’ve been down this path a time or two.) But, it’s nothing you can die from so I’ll pop some ibuprofen and get myself moving.

There’s pimpin’ to be done! I’m back. And I’m baaaaaad.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Soaked

I guess it must rain a lot on this date every year.

I took S to the grocery store with me last night and I got pretty soaked in between stores. As the wind picked up, my hood wouldn't stay up and my umbrella did less and less good. It took at least an hour or two last night for my clothes to dry out. I was beginning to think I'd have to work out the cubit measurements!

All I know is that it's supposed to be sunny and in the 60s through Sunday afternoon. They'd better be right about this!

So much for the Farmer's Almanac saying it would be a drier April and May this year ...

Beer o'clock?

I probably had more fun on Twitter this morning than I’ve had the whole time I’ve been using it combined.

Ty’smommy and I were commiserating on the fact that while we were physically present today(in two different locations), mentally – not so much. She said she was right there with me and I said I was glad to be in such good company – wherever in the hell that was. To which she said: “If only there were a bar here.”

That made me laugh and she and I exchanged virtual bar orders. No matter that this was well before 9 a.m. (I did say it was virtual.) But that Margarita I ordered, it sounded soooo unbelievably good. I really did have to talk myself down.

Then, I remembered that I’d made a playlist for the Nano sometime back and called it “Pour Me a Drink.” I tweeted this, pointing out that AC/DC’s “Have a Drink on Me” was starting things off.
If you had this playlist, you’d then be treated to:

Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett
Tequila – The Champs (Who could forget the awesome PeeWee Herman dance number?!)
If the Blues Was Whiskey – Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson
Red, Red Wine – UB40
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant – Billy Joel
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer – John Lee Hooker
I Drink Alone – George Thorogood
Message in a Bottle – The Police
Shake It Up – The Cars
Escape (Pina Colada song) – Rupert Holmes (Not one of my favorites but it was the base for this year’s Crop Camp parody.)
Big Yellow Taxi – Counting Crows (Someone asked why this song applied. Um … best way to get home, right?)
867-5309/Jenny –T ommy Tutone (It might fit your list if your good friend “B”, with the most serious of expressions, casually wrote down this number in a matchbook for a guy in a bar. And THEN, equally casually scrawled the name “Jenny” underneath it. AND THEN, the guy took it with a “hey, thanks” never getting the joke.)
Smooth – Santana and Rob Thomas
If You Could See – Tonic
The Remedy – Jason Mraz (Remember on The Waltons how the Baldwin sisters had “the remedy” or codeword for moonshine.)

Looking at my playlist and at Ty’smommy’s suggestions (which included A Tear in My Beer, Whiskey in the Jar, Alcohol, and Alcoholin' Ass by Hell Yeah) I decided to see what other suggestions were out there. I was pleased to find that many of my choices were on other peoples’ lists, too.

That’s when I also discovered that World Cocktail Week starts May 6. (I’m not creative enough to make this stuff up, folks. Here’s lookin’ at you, CD.)

So get ready folks. You already have a good start on a soundtrack …

Super Soaker

It rained hard yesterday, last night, and overnight. Walking across the yard is like stepping on marshmallows – muddy ones, too. Both my umbrella and jacket are still wet from last night!

I drove to the depot this morning as I will be on a “fish quest” later. Good Friday observance. No other Friday during Lent seems to bother the mother, but this one throws her headlong into religious tradition.

(No irreverence to the solemnity of the day, this is just a custom I don't get. Me? I figure if I’m going to Hell, it’s going to be for something a lot more significant than eating meat on an odd day of the calendar. Why not jut not eat?) But I’ll play along anyway. I’ll probably just eat some of the albacore tuna I bought at the store last night as part of the cholesterol craziness.

The sky continues to be gray this morning, but at least for now, it's not raining. I didn’t catch any weather as the mother was watching “Fried Green Tomatoes” and it was all I could do to not plop down beside her and watch, too. (We’ve both seen it a ba-million times but aren’t averse to adding another viewing to the count.)

I sure hope the dry and in the 60s forecast I’ve been seeing for the weekend holds out …

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Flings with DIY

I ran across a lot of home improvement news while doing some online searches for other things today. And the news isn’t even all bad. Here’s a few things that might be worth a look.

Looking for an ultra “cool” spring project to enjoy all summer? Build a pool – or so says this article on outdoor spring projects.

Not swimming in cash to make it happen? Never fear. You can always do some budget-friendly spring touches on the inside.

And we all know how I love to give nods to our housebloggin’ brethren. Well, the Manila Standard, a newspaper in the Philippines, is giving some link love to 10 housebloggers. I know you’ll recognize some of these home and DIY enthusiasts including Apartment Therapy, Homeowner’s Blog, and the Handyguys Podcast.

Sun Before Rain

The sun is viciously bright this morning, but considering that I’d rather have it than not, I’ll deal with it. We’re supposedly in for rain later today and most of tomorrow. Fun times.

The good news is that the weekend is supposed to be dry and in the 60s. Sounds like I’ll be mowing the lawn and ideally starting on the shed. I think it’s a job I can finish – except for the painting – in two days. I think.

For the record, I did measure the columns on the porch last night and I hope to be ordering some PVC bases today. We’ll see if I get to that or not.

Later in the evening, I also watched Renovation Realities on HGTV again. While this episode wasn’t nearly as funny as last week’s, it was amusing. And there did seem to be a common theme: blowing the house. While our DIY guy this week didn’t take a saw to the gas line, he just unhooked a stove and let gas flow freely through the house.

That show really does make me feel loads better about the time, effort, and end results at This D*mn House!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wee Bits Wednesday

My brain has been all over the place today. As a result, I started about 100 things but finished very little. So, why shouldn’t tonight’s blog post be like everything else today, and like my attention span in particular – short, disjointed, and maybe even pointless?
*******
While I’m getting what equates to extreme amounts of sleep for me, I have been like the living dead the past few mornings. Mind you, I almost never bound out of bed, gleefully ready to face the day and bouncing around like a junior high cheerleader. That’s just not going to happen. I'm a night person, always have been. Alarms that go off between 5:30 and 5:45 are just not that appealing to me.

Still, I’ve been getting up and then ever so sloooooooowly going through my routine, taking about twice as long as usual. Could it be the anti-inflammatory med? I’d understand if I were taking the muscle relaxer, but I have avoided it thus far.
*******
Phone rings at the office, a local number I don’t recognize.
NV: Good afternoon. This is Nicole.
Caller: Hi. I’m trying to reach (name withheld).
NV: Sorry. No one here by that name. Thank you.

I hang up. This has happened a few times during the 8.5 years I’ve worked there, clearly from a collection agency. The phone rings again. I see it’s the same number as before. No pleasant greeting this time. I cut to the chase.

NV: I’m sorry. Was I not clear?
Caller: Clear? I’m trying to reach …
NV: Right. And I think I already told you there’s no one here by that name. If there ever was, she hasn’t been at this number since late 2000. Either you’ve transposed digits and have a wrong number or else you really need to update your records. In either case, I can’t help you. Bye bye.

I hang up and I’ll be d*mned if the phone doesn’t ring AGAIN. Same freakin’ number. I let it go to voice mail. Voicemail that clearly identifies ME as me – and gives you my assistant’s number if you need to reach me right away. My message light doesn’t come on. Ten seconds later, I hear her phone ringing. I can’t help myself. I have to see. And sure enough, it’s the same number AGAIN. My assistant is out sick. I answer it.

NV: (Name withheld’s) office. Oh, I mean, NV’s office.
Click.

Yep. I can be evil when provoked. The joy of it is, my assistant was out sick. She couldn't have taken that call. (Pausing to snort laugh.) I can’t wait to see what happens now!
*******
It’s turned out to be a beautiful day outside (sunny and 60ish). So, when I get home tonight – now that I have roughly an hour before it gets dark – I’m going to measure the columns and order those bases! If I’m ever going to get anything done, I’ve got to stop talking about it and start doing it.
*******
Congratulations to Barbara of Furlong, PA for winning the $200 gift certificate towards a Home Depot tool rental from Charles and Hudson. I was going to enter, but wasn’t sure what I’d rent if I won. (You know my tool obsession. I’m not sure I’d want to give anything back!)

Besides, I’m saving my contest luck for One Project Closer’s annual “Before and After” series. It starts May 21. Me and my brick porch and walkway, we are SO there!

Me vs. Cholesterol

When I got in Monday night, the mother says: “There’s a message for you on the answering machine from the doctor’s office.”

I listened. It was one of the nurses telling me that my LDL cholesterol (the bad sh*t) was 148. It needs to be much closer to 100 ideally, or, at the very least, below 130. What she didn’t tell me were two other numbers: my HDL (good cholesterol) and triglyceride levels. That’s stupid. That’s only giving me part of the picture! (And, I was under the assumption you needed to fast before getting an accurate LDL reading. Nevermind that I'd eaten just a few hours before my appointment.)

And already, they’re talking about putting me on drugs for it. Um … no. I’m not doing that. You can write out any prescription you want. I ain’t fillin’ it because if the condition doesn’t kill you, the drugs just might. Have you listened to the commercials advertising that sh*t? I have. I will not permit these people to kill me, thank you very much.

Suffice it to say there are going to be some changes around this D*mn House.

I know it’s a necessity. I also know I’m capable of it. Not that long ago, most of my clothes were hanging on me. Other items that hadn’t been worn in a good long while –because they were waaaay too tight -- had been welcomed back into the closet rotation. Why? Not only was I super-busy at TDH, I was also very conscious of everything I ate. And it showed.

But then 2009 continued the nervous, edgy ride that all of Q4 2008 had been and I wasn’t so good about what I was eating anymore. That changes today. Actually, I already kind of started yesterday. I gagged down plain oatmeal (because there wasn’t any apples and cinnamon)and tried to do trail mix as a snack (which turns out to have more crap in it than a candy bar. Go figure.)

Last night, I bought an assortment of things to help: fruit, granola bars, yogurt. And tomorrow night, when it’s grocery store night, I’ll get even more of a variety. Because the good news is that if I have all of these things handy, I will eat them.

I may want something else, but I’ll eat these.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Brush Up on Painting

Once the weather does officially turn warm – and stay that way – paint will be back in the plans. When I finally get the boards on the shed, either the mother or I will have to paint them. (This may or may not wait until the annual Memorial Day sale on Behr paint which gets you back $5 on a gallon. I’m betting it does.)

Paint really should be a four-letter word. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: It’s not a coincidence that the first four letters of paint spell “pain.”

The mother also has a boatload of gingerbread to paint and I’ll have to remember to put wood screws on a pending hardware shopping list so that I’ll be ready to put those bad boys up!

That’s probably why this item over at UniqueDaily.Com, and featured by Charles & Hudson, caught my eye a few days ago. It made me feel a little closer to normal. Not much, but a little. Of course, this is the same site that offers up a recipe for Vodka gummi bears.

Frankly though, I prefer to have my paint meltdowns at The Home Depot as we saw last fall. And it’s not because I can’t choose a color – more because they can’t correctly make the color I chose.

Tuesday ToolTalk: The Lawnmower

When the time change took effect last month, it was still pitch black when I left for work in the morning. I’m happy to report today, within minutes of boarding the bus, the sun is rising in the sky. That’s a very welcome change.

What hasn’t changed from about a month ago is the temperature. It’s in the 30s this morning, quite cold indeed. I’m beginning to think that winter is never going to end.

The grass is green and growing at an alarming rate, so much so that I know the lawnmower is going to come out very soon. Maybe even this weekend. I was going to buy a new mower this year, but I’m going to see if I can’t limp this one along ‘til next spring. Next spring when, ideally, things like raises and bonuses are back.

That means I’ll need to do a few things to get the mower running:
1. Replace the oil. I usually drain the engine every season. This is something Young Tom did religiously and he would haunt me if I didn’t.
2. Check the filter. I’m usually pretty good about cleaning the filter before I put ‘er away in the fall, but frankly, with everything that was going on last year, I’m not sure if I did. It’s really not a big deal though. Rinse it off with a little soapy water, coat it with a thin layer of engine oil, and put it back in place.
3. Buy some gas. The good news is that gas is cheap, so I’ll probably top out my 2-gallon container. I’m usually pretty careful though about not buying too much, regardless of price, because “old” gas can make a mower run badly. I usually don’t keep gas more than 30 days, though I think you’re safe up to right around 60 days.

At this point, the forecast is calling for dry weather and highs in the 60s for the weekend, so maybe I can not only give the lawn its first cut, but also get back to work on the shed and get it finished. That would get those boards out of the family room and I could begin to think about how to make sense of the mess that’s down there.

You’ve got to start someplace, right?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Death and Taxes

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."Benjamin Franklin

As for death, we’ve seen quite enough of it around here. And taxes? Well, those were filed months ago with refunds long since received. Or, more correctly, the ones where refunds were coming were filed. Now there's a deadline fast-approaching next week. Ugh.

Living in one state and working in another is a hassle that materializes only at tax time. Otherwise, those twice-daily trips across the river are the only evidence that I don’t live and work in the same state.

As a result, I have not yet filed my Illinois taxes. I’m not getting anything back from them, which more or less make the federal and Missouri forms more of a priority. Based on this news story, it’s probably a really good thing that I did Missouri in a hurry, too.

In Illinois, I have to not only fill out the state 1040 form, I have to fill out a CR form to get credit for what I pay to Missouri. Then, I have to send them copies of both my Missouri and federal tax forms. It has gotten a little easier with the advent of online returns.

That’s another reason why Missouri and federal tax forms get done first. I just key in the information and go. For Illinois, it’s not as simple. There’s a whole set of paperwork to make sure I include.

The kicker is not only am I not getting money back from Illinois, I don’t owe them anything either. At least not ‘til next year when our new governor jacks up the income tax by 5o percent!

Kind of seems like a waste of time, effort, paper, and postage doesn’t it? Especially when you consider how many government officials don’t bother to pay their taxes.

At least I paid mine. I’m just saying I should skip the filing part!

The Wrath of Ole Man Winter

That wicked Ole Man – he just couldn’t go quietly. It’s in the 30s this morning with wind chills in the 20s. While they said snow was possible, there hasn’t been any yet. Just cold rain and a light drizzle.

This isn’t exactly the weather that one would expect for Opening Day of the baseball season. No, not at all.

I have colleagues who are planning to go today and on Friday, they were already planning to wear long underwear! There were people on the news last night who had made themselves a “tent condo” inf front of the stadium in hopes of getting tickets to the sold-out game. I like baseball and I’ll root for the Cards as hard as anybody, but there’s only one word for people like that: crazy.

The game is supposed to start at 3:15 so getting out of downtown at rush hour tonight should be complete and total chaos. I just can’t wait. *rolls eyes*

I actually do feel a little better today. I’m just very tired. It would have been a good day to stay in bed. If I could get about five or six more hours of sleep, I’m sure I’d feel like a new person.

I should have been able to get some extra sleep yesterday, but Toby was a complete and total menace. As a result, I didn’t get to sleep in like I normally do, so I’m paying for it today. And I spent a good chunk of the day just catching up on those routine things that I can normally divide between Saturday and Sunday.

In spite of the weather, which casts a gloomy shadow on everything at the moment, here’s hoping for a much improved week.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

AWOL, Part 2

There were a few key ingredients that made Saturday morning an overly painful time for me.

First, I was attending a funeral. They're just not fun. Second, my aching back found the wooden church pew to be nothing less than a form of medieval torture. (Add this to what I call Catholic calisthenics -- sit, stand, kneel, reverse!) And third, the priest performing the service.

I always HATE when someone who has never met the deceased tries to talk about them on a personal level. Some men and women of the cloth can pull this off quite well. This priest? Not so much. He would start a sentence well and then trail off into something pointless. He opened by talking about the scene played out on the roof of the church (outside, which confused those in the audience who were unfamiliar with the church) and going on to talk about the importance of the Virgin Mary. This then snowballed into him pointing out the beautiful statues around the church.

I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. What the hell is this guy talking about? Is he drunk?

"Bill appreciated nature. He liked to hunt and fish." Cool, I thought. This is going better.

"The fish has long been a sign of Christianity, the way Christians would identify with one another." I thought some parallel would then be drawn. But it was not to be.

He went off on a tangent about "the good news" and how the word gospel literally translates to good news. And he kept interspersing the family's last name -- except 90 percent of the time, it wasn't even their name. Most times, it wasn't even close. I bit my tongue a lot before finally leaning over to the mother and whispering: The good news would be if he could get the deceased's last name right, just once.

The priest wasn't the only one guilty of a faux pas. The Knights of Columbus made what would have been a very nice presentation by presenting a gold chalice that would be sent to some church around the world in Uncle Bill's name. It would have been awesome, had before he explained about the chalice, he hadn't said: "unlike an inscription on a pagan plaque ..." to which I immediately noticed the VFW post representative seated across the aisle from me squirm in his seat -- clutching a memorial plaque that he was next up to present.

And then the priest spent between 5 and 10 minutes talking about who could and couldn't take Communion later in the service. During this, he directly addressed the non-Catholics by saying "We love you anyway -- but you can't take Communion. as communion means community and unity and if you're not part of the community ..."

A lovely bit of talking down to that group. Never mind that at least 98 percent of those present were either Catholic or at least raised that way, so we knew the rules already.

The bright spot in the service were eulogies from a nephew and niece. These went a long way to make up for all the foibles. The best part: seeing three of my two baby cousins' (who are now in their 30s) children deliver the gifts during offertory. They're 9, 7, and 6 and too cute for words.

But the day only got better.

The MonkeyGirl picked me up later in the afternoon and I got to salvage most of my planned scrapbooking event. Laughing with good friends, and playing with my pictures is always fun. And she and I finally got to catch up after not seeing each other for months.

It was a great way to end what had been a really distressing week.