Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Gettin' There

I wish I had a dime for every time I've either heard that phrase from the mother or uttered it myself. We say it all the time as a kind of soothing mantra when projects take longer than expected or are otherwise frustrating.

Let's just say that it was a popular phrase around here today.

The good news is that the kitchen ceiling is almost done! I can't wait to get it finished. It is amazingly different. While I've gotten used to the bathroom, the kitchen is going to take a little longer. The mother is very pleased with it and she's anxious to see it with the trim in place. (That's a Lawrence job for next weekend)

My first task of the day was to try and find some boxes so that we could start clearing out the kitchen. There are five shelves in the kitchen that go around the soffit and end above the window. They are chock full of a variety of knick-knacks of the mother's.

The vast majority of them are glass. They had to be wrapped and packed. Then, there is a collection of copper, some of which will be repainted silver. Those things to be repainted were put in another box. A third box is filled with Americana pieces other than glass.

These are just a few (these are the smallest of the shelves) of the things that had to be packed before the kitchen ceiling work could even begin.

But I finally did get started on the ceiling. It was a challenge from the start, but it finally got a little momentum. It's a job I hope to wrap up later today. I'm glad I took some "before" shots of the kitchen a week or so ago.

It already is changing and by this time next month, it will be a very different place.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Can't Rain on My Parade

I awoke to a downpour shortly after sunrise. Shortly after that, it was a yowling cat. And, shortly after that, a sick dog.

It’s been a fun morning. And while the rain stopped, and the sun came out, another round of showers is moving in. The room is getting darker as I type this. But let it rain. I don’t care. Ask me why. Go ahead. Ask me.

I don’t care because … the mother got the kitchen ceiling panels and trim painted YESTERDAY!!! I was so exhausted when I got home last night (I only worked three days last week, but it felt like three months – but that’s a good thing, really) but when I saw that stuff drying, I cheered. That means I can start the kitchen TODAY.

So go ahead, Mother Nature, do your d*mndest. I’m thumbing my nose at you. You can't rain on my parade. Not today.

A Silver Lining

Yesterday morning, I wasn’t capable of blogging. When I first got to work, it was a long time before I even spoke to anyone.

It would have been a good day for a mental health day. But the craziness of non-stop activity probably ended up being more therapeutic after all.

The one good thing in bad turns is that it makes you refocus. It reminds me once again of just how lucky I am to have such great friends and how grateful I am to have them in my circle and to have unfettered access to roam in theirs.

All these years later, I’m still awestruck by the connection. What did I to deserve it? It really is one of the best parts of my life.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Everything AND The Kitchen Sink

You’ve no doubt heard the old line about throwing in everything but the kitchen sink … well, today I have managed to purchase everything and the kitchen sink.

The refrigerator was purchased at the beginning of the month. We bought hardware for the kitchen cabinets last year. Likewise on the sink fixtures. The ceiling panels and coordinating egg and dart molding were purchased a few months ago. And the mother bought a new light and microwave a few weeks ago and I bought the floor tiles last week. We picked up the special order stain for the cabinets on Monday.

That took care of quite a bit. Even so, that still left some items hanging. Namely:
· Range
· Range hood
· Kitchen cart
· Sink

Since we aren’t getting new countertops, that pretty much wraps the items we’ll need to finish the kitchen. (Except for the backerboard, grout, and adhesive for the floor tiles.) The range and range hood are coming from an online outlet. Shipping is free and the range was hundreds of dollars cheaper than anywhere else. The hood was about $40 less than the best price I could get locally.

We were going to buy the sink from Home Depot where it’s on sale but it was hard to pass up free shipping --and a price about $25 cheaper than HD’s.

I’ll name names and let you know how my experiences were with these places once the goods arrive next month. For now, I like them as they’ve collectively saved me just about enough to buy the kitchen cart and the materials for the floor installation! My theory: Why should I give it to them when I can keep it and use it for another part of the project?

It’s been tough to piece-meal buy all this stuff but it’s given me time to not only add to what I’d already saved toward their purchase, but to look for the best deal. I’m hell bent about making every home improvement dollar go as far as it can, and, except for maybe the refrigerator, I don’t think I could have done any better.

We'll soon see just how well I did ...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gone Too Soon

One of the most incredible parts about being part of a circle of friends is that sometimes your circles merge with their circles and you meet all of these wonderful, amazing, people that you may otherwise never have known.

The MonkeyGirl calls those “bonus friends.” I’ve always thought that an apt description. And it’s why an email from her today shook me to the core. One of those bonuses has been lost.

Joe Longi died Saturday, May 23. That’s all I know. It’s all I really need to know, I guess. He has a memorial page on Facebook and I will invariably contribute some photos to a collection that one of his closer friends started. I have quite a few, though they’re a bit scattered and I’ll need to find them.

Some of the tributes there and on this blog are emotionally crushing. These people remember Joe the musician or Joe the artist. I can attest he was talented in both cases. That’s not, however, what I will remember Joe for. I will remember him as the man who introduced the chainsaw to the annual Pumpkins & Powertools party.

And I will remember him as my dance partner. (For the record, I don’t dance. Or, more correctly, I don’t dance often or well.) Joe was forever trying to get me to dance. I used to call him Denny Terrio. Surely you remember Dance Fever? Joe did.

Because he would tease me about so many things, though never maliciously – always in jest, I thought my clumsy awkwardness at dancing would be added to the list. Instead, he was patient and encouraging. I told Joe I would always be his Solid Gold dancer and we both would laugh.

Of course, Joe always seemed to be laughing. He was one of those people you couldn’t help but laugh at or with. And movies? He and I talked some trash about some movies.

Laughing, dancing, making faces, or just generally making others laugh … we’re going to miss you, Joe. I guess now you truly are dancing (or drummin’) with the stars.

Happy Blogaversary!

Around this time two years ago, I was angry at a flooring manufacturer and at a home improvement store, both of whom had wronged me on a major project with a deadline. And This D*mn House was born.

I can’t believe I missed my own blogaversary! What a goof. Technically, I made my very first post on May 21, 2007, with an open letter to Shaw Flooring. To their credit, Shaw refunded some of my money. (For the record, Home Depot deducted their share of it. They made sure they got paid for the sale and gave up nothing.) Based on the experience I had with the installation, I feared that the floor would not hold up.

Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. More than two years later, I think it still looks as good as the day it went down.

But after that, my blog went quiet. I’d only told a handful of people about it and so for nearly a year, nothing. The blog even survived an attempt to delete it. I’d gone back and read my three meager posts some months later and thought, “This is stupid. Drop it.” Delete. Delete. Delete.

It didn’t work. And now, two years and hundreds of blog entries later, I’m so glad it didn’t! Thanks for hangin’ out with me and makin’ me think these adventures (or some of them anyway) just may be worth bloggin’ about. I’m still enjoying the ride.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good News?


Maybe. I’m so tired of hearing about layoffs and financial disaster. I’m past ready for some good news where the economy is concerned. Aren’t you?

Having said that, I hope I’m not reading too much into the rise in consumer sentiment – even if it is at the expense of the value of our homes. And while I’m smiling, I’m still reserving that grain of salt to take this news with on the latest projections for the end to the recession.

We DIYers must be spending some money. Lowe’s has announced that it will begin offering do-it-yourself clinics again, focusing on plumbing and electrical projects. Apparently, they curbed these a few years ago when people more readily paid someone else to do these kinds of jobs. This story is another testament to the fact that more people are putting routine tasks back onto their own to-do lists.

Maybe other cities around the country should follow this example from Denver where city leaders have agreed to waive building permit fees on a variety of projects through the first half of June. Sounds like a great way to stimulate local economies. Hats off to them!

What's in There?

With all the craziness of the past week, I forgot about something. So when the mother and I returned from our paint pilgrimage on Friday and spied a package leaned against the front door, I couldn't imagine what she was talking about when she asked, "What's in that package?"

Well, of course, it was the copy of the Domino decorating book that I'd won, courtesy of our friends at Charles & Hudson! What a pleasant surprise!

This is an awesome book. Thanks again to C&H for sending it my way.

It would take a few days before I really had a chance to do much more than crack the cover. But when I did steal a few minutes to sit down and look at it (after I had to go and reclaim it from the mother) this is the page I opened it up to.

It seemed pretty apt, considering that I'd be spending the weekend in that very room!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Look at the Grout! Look at the Grout!

If you can read that title and hear Curly of the Three Stooges in your head, you get a glimpse of how my brain works. I couldn’t get around uttering this phrase when the mother and I went to check out grout today.

Who knew there were this many to choose from? Holy sh*t, Batman!

The one color we know it won’t be (at least not in the kitchen): white. In the bathroom, we can’t decide between white, black or something in between.

Today was kind of a wasted day where DIY was concerned. I spent the first two hours of the morning messing with my work computer in an ill-fated attempt to solve its woes remotely. Tomorrow should be a lot of fun. (Removing tongue from cheek.)

The mother couldn’t paint again today (periodic downpours; it’s getting ridiculous) so no progress on the kitchen. And, the rain meant I couldn’t set up my miter saw to cut the new trim for the bathroom. It needs to be painted, too, but that could be done down in the laundry room. I just need to cut it because whatever is left of it is going over the backsplash in the kitchen.

In between downpours, I took the mother back to the doctor. She’d received an ominous call on Friday morning that had set me on edge. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be serious, at least not now. Whew! Dodging these bullets is emotionally draining.

Here’s hoping that the rain stops soon so the Michelangelo Project can go full steam ahead!

Michelangelo, Phase One

I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped to(and that's an understatement)but I did get the panels up on the bathroom ceiling. This looks a little different, doesn't it?

We're still trying to get used to it, but I'm pleased overall. Once the light gets back in and I get the trim up, it will look even better!

Now if it will ever stop raining, the mother can paint the kitchen panels and I can get things rolling in there. The Michelangelo Project is on its way!

And poor Michelangelo. My neck, back, arms, and legs STILL ache from having spent a day and night crawling up and down and standing on a ladder and holding both arms over my head. How did that dude manage it?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Big Trouble

It has been a rough and rugged 24 hours.

This time last night I was still working on the bathroom ceiling. And, it was about this time last night that I discovered that a virus or something had hijacked my work computer. Not good. It's causing me some grief with a billing cycle close. Oops!

There was no one for me to call and our automated system said the line to our IT help's pager number was invalid. (I tried early this morning to reach someone.) Nice.

Meanwhile, I was still fighting the bathroom. I got it down to one little piece. After the third unsuccessful try at cutting it, I quit for the night.

I just finished the ceiling a few hours ago. I'm rather pleased with it but it's going to take some getting used to. (Stay tuned for photos.)

This whole computer fiasco has me freaked out. I've been rather lucky all these years, only being briefly affected by some stupid virus or worm that kept linking to porn.

I'm hoping that it can be fixed quick and easy.

While I've been off, I also bought the tile for the kitchen and today, we bought some trim for the bathroom. That will be the next job. But first, it has to stop raining so I can set up the saw!

D*mn technology being used for ill. D*mn rain continuing steady and strong.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tiny Bath, HUGE Mess

Since the sun didn't win yesterday, I focused on ripping the wallpaper off the bathroom ceiling. (Before you think I'm completely nuts, it was the textured wallpaper made to look like the tin type pattern.)

It's a tiny room. The wallpaper has been up around 14-15 years. It should be easy, right? Um, no. (I'm hearing Tony Soprano here: Does everything have to be hard?) I did it one half at a time. These are from the first half.

Cleanup was actually the easisest part! I'll admit that was a surprise! Just looking at it, you'd think it would be pretty bad. Luckily, the DIY miracle that is cheap drop cloths saved the day. It didn't all hit the drop cloths but the other miracle, the Shop Vac, took care of that.

Eventually, I got it down to nothing. So, take a look. This is the BEFORE shot. That means that the next picture you see will be the AFTER. Since rain is quickly moving in AGAIN, meaning the kitchen panels STILL won't get painted (cursing under my breath) looks like the Michelangelo Project has officially begun.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sun vs. Rain

Right now, rain is winning. The sun was out five minutes ago. Now it's raining. Again. Second time in the past hour.

D*mn Mother Nature anyway!

The winds are calm today --unlike the past two days -- making it an ideal time for spray-painting. Oh, unless it's raining. Great.

Rain is in the forecast for the whole rest of the time I'm off. I knew that. I didn't even have a problem with it because I thought I'd have this morning to get set up and get this stuff painted. So, if it can't get it done today, or maybe, (and that's a big maybe) tomorrow, I can't get the kitchen panels painted. And they're supposed to get up while I'm off!

Here's hoping we can have four to five hours of dry time (minimum) to try to get this done.

Friday, May 22, 2009

All the Cool Kids Have One

That's right boys and girl ... nothing says "cool" like a five-gallon bucket of paint in your livingroom!
It doesn't seem to bother Toby. He decided to keep it company after giving it a thorough sniff-down. I couldn't help but take a picture since this scene made me laugh.

It's only in the livingroom because it's mega heavy and it would be very hard to wrangle into the basement without a strong possibility of falling down the stairs with it. Yeah, I need to injure myself again and/or pour paint all over the basement stairs and family room. So, for right now anyway, it's staying right where it is.

It was quite a day. One of my nearest and dearest, PB, made a surprise visit today. I was so glad to see her! She calls me fairly regularly -- we live on opposite sides of the river and I work on her side and she works on mine -- with the hope that we might one day be on the same side during happy hour. It's still not worked, but we'll keep trying, eh?!

Then the mother and I dashed off to buy paint and groceries, etc. We will have to motor back to the Home Depot for two reasons. First, this HD was out of the base paint to mix paint for the house with. (They're supposedly getting more tonight.)

And second, after the discussion with Lawrence yesterday, we knew what our options were for a sink. We found one while waiting for our painted to be mixed. It's even on sale, something the sinks weren't when we looked at them previously.

Pearl's trunk was already packed pretty tight with groceries and household supplies and we needed to put the paint in there, too, still. That didn't leave any room for the sink box. And I didn't want to put that dirty box in my backseat. (I know. It's an illness. I blame the mother.)

But that will have to wait. Tonight, I need to clean up and clear out the laundry room so that we can use it to store painted ceiling panels and molding for the kitchen while they completely dry. That's how the mother and I are planning to start the day tomorrow ...

Happy Fly Day!

Yesterday morning I saw both baby birds on the edge of the nest, each alternately flapping their wings. I knew it wouldn't be long before they literally flew the coop.

Lawrence showed up in the interim and we got busy with projects. I kept checking and both were still standing on the edge. The mama bird would occasionally swoop in to deliver some chow.

Before Lawrence and I went on a lumber run, I grabbed my camera to try to capture the two of them together on the nest one final time. I was too late. As I walked out the door, one of the babies flew into the adjacent tree where its mama has taken up residence. Wow! It was cool!

I hurriedly snapped some photos of Baby #2 who was much more hesitant than its sibling.

He looks like he's giving the flying some serious thought.
I'd no sooner let go of the shutter on this shot, then the little guy got up his nerve and flapped out of the nest! Unlike its sibling, it didn't make it to the tree, instead, it safely wafted to the ground.

I feel so privileged to have witnessed this, even if I did miss the money shot ...

Right now, I'm off to do some flying of my own -- with Pearl and the mother. We're going to make the paint pilgrimage. Fun times.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Paint Sale!

It's Memorial Day weekend and that can mean only one thing: Behr paint is on sale at Home Depot!

The mother and I were just talking about paint a few days ago and this came up. We've been waiting and finally, today, the email came. You get $5 off a gallon or $20 off a five-gallon container. The sale ends Monday.

It's been a busy day already, but it's not over yet. I'm still going to try to get the yard done.

So far, with Lawrence here, we:
  • Put in a new bathroom fan.
  • Took down the bathroom light.
  • Took down the kitchen light.
  • Went and purchased plywood and cut a new top for an ancient display table. (Small, but much needed. I just finished making the replacement a little while ago. )
  • Discussed putting in a new tub surround.
  • Measured the kitchen and the hallway (just beyond the back door) for tile.
  • Determined that the ceiling medallion we bought for the bathroom light would fit.
  • Likewise for the new under-the-cabinet and over-the-counter Xeon light we bought to replace an ancient fluorescent in the same spot.
  • Discussed what I needed for a new sink.
  • Decided that I had to take up EVERY piece of the kitchen floor (oh Lord, that's at least four layer's worth of vinyl tile). That was the discouraging part of the day. That's going to take at least a day. D*mn!
  • Determined that I DON'T have to take down the kitchen trim! The new egg and dart molding will fit right over it.

So, like I said, a busy but productive day. Now it's onto the dreaded lawn.

Day One

I still have some things that I need to do for work, but essentially I am now on vacation!

I got some sleep last night, which, after back-to-back nights of constantly waking up, was marvelous. (Truth be told, I could probably lay down right now and go back to sleep. Somehow, though, I don’t think that Lawrence would appreciate no one answering the door when he gets here later.)

So, I’m ready to get dressed, jazz myself up with some caffeine and get things going.

Today is going to be a mish-mosh of activities, meaning I’m not sure just how much will ultimately get accomplished. But, you have to start somewhere, right?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tiny Bath, Big Ideas

It’s funny how things work sometimes. After commiserating the other night with Jen of Dogs and Jen on trying to maximize space in a tiny bathroom, I took some photos of how we opted to keep the original door off of our bathroom (taken off a few years ago when we did a second round of redos in there).

Instead, we replaced it with a louvred door that folds at the corner. (The original is in storage downstairs.) You can’t imagine the difference it made in what little floor space there is in there. Enough to accomodate that little table for starters, something that helps make up for the vanity storage we lost when we switched to a pedestal sink.

The door no longer seems weird to us, so I decided to take some pictures and blog a bit about it. As I prepared to take a few shots, I stared at the tub in disgust. I think I’ve mentioned that it needs reglazing. And the fiberglass surround is in desperate need of recaulking, something I’ve staved off with, what else, duct tape. (Yeah, I’m appropriately embarrassed.) And while it’s still fairly shiny and nice for the most part, nearly 15 years of use has put in some cracks and gouges. Ugly. That’s what I was thinking about when I shot this photo.

Tight squeeze, isn’t it? Under that table to the left, is Toby’s litterbox.

Off to the right, is the sink.

I consoled myself with the notion that you just can’t do everything, as much as you might like to.

Imagine my surprise then when last night, our attention was suddenly drawn to a display of tub surrounds. Some of them were absolutely gorgeous, And the beauty was that they weren’t nearly as expensive as I thought they would be. There was one in particular that the mother and I both liked. You can bet it will be a discussion topic with Lawrence tomorrow.

Here’s the door closed.

It’s worth mentioning that I had to walk into the livingroom to shoot this. The hall is quite narrow. And here’s the door open.

That other door, over to the left, that’s the mother’s bedroom door. So, yeah, it’s really limited space.

If we do end up replacing the surround, I’m not tiling the floor until that’s done. For now, I’ll focus on getting the ceiling up.

So, we’re doing both the kitchen and bath from the top down! Let the fun begin.

Stop Lookin’ At Me!

That’s what I want to scream at Weirder who is seated across and one seat up from me. Every time I look away from the screen, there he is. Just be polite and do not make a scene. That’s what I tell myself. If it didn’t require touching, I’d really like to throttle him.

Yes, someone did wake up on the wrong side of the bed today. I may smack the first real life person who notes this and sarcastically greets me with, “Good morning, sunshine.” I know it’s inevitable. Just call me Grumpy.

I’ve had back-to-back nights of repeatedly waking up, so I’m a bit sleep-deprived. Yeah, seriously grumpy.

There is good news. I keep telling myself that. It’s working. Sort of. Like:
*Our newest power bill is unbelievably low, in spite of A/C use. Love that!
*The bathroom tile is going to look awesome. I laid several pieces together on the floor last night and was just blown away. But putting the tile down is getting delayed. (Plan change to be noted later.)
*I just have to survive today and then I don’t come back ‘til next Wednesday!
*Lawrence returns tomorrow!

Yeah, that’s a pretty good list. I’m smiling. Sort of.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Speculative, Harried & Excited

As for Home Depot and Lowe’s, they can’t blame me for their financial woes. I’ve been as good to both of them as ever during the past year!

I’ve got out onto the proverbial limb and done my part for the economy by continuing with the previously planned renovation and even buying a car. Just call me Jane Consumer.

Granted, I did it hesitatingly. I was very close to not buying the car but after talking about it for two years and seriously looking for about a year, I think I found a good deal. (In fact, one of the mother’s friends who recently bought a bigger version of Pearl and a model year newer, keeps wanting to trade me.) Considering that I haven’t owned a car for almost eight years (Ladybird is technically the mother’s, though both cars are collectively referred to as “ours”), I think it really was time.

And I love that car. I may even love it more than my very first one and that's saying something.(And so does the mother. So, that’s a bonus in my book.) Even so, I still can’t help asking myself if I did the right thing. Damn that negative nagging little feeling that has plagued me -- with good reason -- for much of my life. That’s the speculative part of the post.

The harried part is that I have a new work project. I am now crazy busy after a terrifying lull. (Terrifying as in, gee, you aren’t busy. Do we even need you?) I wholeheartedly welcome the change, but it’s only taken a week to wear me down!

The excited part is that I love it. It’s wonderful to be crazy busy and to be learning new things, meeting new people, taking on completely new challenges. And excited is that I got the days off that I asked for. After tomorrow, I don’t come back until May 27!

Excited is also that things are moving again on the house. I found out some info on the kitchen cart at lunchtime today, so we’ll likely buy it. And the tile for the bathroom (which was special order) is in. We’re going to pick it up tonight.

Then, of course, Lawrence returns on Thursday, my first day of vacation. That definitely points to progress which is always exciting. That is, if I ever finish mapping out exactly what I want him to do once he gets there! But, in classic Scarlett O’Hara fashion, I’ll think about that tomorrow …

Our Feathered Friends

Yes, that's friends, plural. I finally got to see our two resident baby birds.

Now you can, too!

This is about the best view I've had of them, simultaneously at least, ever. I don't know how they manage it. Robins grow rather quickly and these two are no exception. That nest is SO tiny for two rapidly growing birds.

I laughed because they were fidgeting around, jockeying for a good spot, the whole time I was out there. It was a sight to behold. Here, they appear to be saying: "Hey! Is there something going on down there?"

I didn't get very close because I didn't want to frighten them or to unduly unnerve the mama robin who was watching suspiciously from the adjacent tree. I did, though, keep trying to get a better view of them.

As I was reviewing the shots as I took them, I didn't think I'd gotten a truly good one. But, when I went inside to show the mother, I found that I did have a rather nice face shot.

I ask you: Are they not adorable?! I was just oohing and ahhing at them something fierce. We've been so worried about them, even wondering if there even was a them, or just a singular it.

They seem pretty alert, very active, and to have most of their feathers and shed almost all of their down. While I was shooting these, the "baby" from next door cautiously eyed me from the neighbors' yard as if to say: "Where's MY close-up?" It was pretty cute.

Like I said, I didn't think I'd really gotten anything until I had a chance to review them a little closer. Then, when I downloaded them and started looking on the computer screen, I saw this.

Doesn't he look like he's saying: "What are you doing down there?!"

I'm still worried about them falling. While building the nest so high up and under the cover of the carport was very smart indeed, I'm just hoping that they don't get injured or killed getting out of the nest.

Their mama has gotten them this far which in bird life is an outstanding achievement. I pray she can safely get them the last leg of the journey.

Don’t Be 1 in 12

One of the beauties of the Internet is its ability to spread PSAs. I'm using my blog that way today.

One in 12 – that’s a rather sobering statistic. It’s the number of people worldwide living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C. And it’s one too many. Consider:

• These two viruses together kill approximately 1 million people a year.
• About 500 million people around the world are currently infected with chronic hepatitis B or C. (Or, a number of people equivalent to the population of New York City – times 55.)
• One in three people have been exposed to one or both viruses.

Today is World Hepatitis Day. Are you number 12? It’s a very scary question, especially if the answer is “yes.” You can find out more about these viruses that attack the liver here.

Be sure to check out this blog and consider supporting this cause on your site today. Don't be Number 12.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I Won! I Won! I Won!

Wasn’t I just writing about how fabulous giveaways are?

While I didn’t win the one I focused on hereyet … I did manage to score a prize from our friends at Charles and Hudson!

What a pleasant surprise it was to start the week with an email letting me know I’d won a copy of The Domino Book of Decorating. Aren’t I lucky?! I can’t wait to see it. And, it’s always nice getting a nod from Charles & Hudson. (Even if they did shave a decade off This D*mn House's age. They can shave a decade off me anytime they’d like!)

What’s funny is, I didn’t really realize I was entering anything! I just happened to read a C&H post that started out by saying: This Mother's Day forget the gifts and instead pick a project that you and your mom can share in building together. We're not talking about remodeling the kitchen or laying tile (unless you and your mom are up for it), but rather projects that are low stress and can be completed in a day.

Low stress. In a day. Yeah. Right. At This D*mn House? I, of course, had to comment by saying that the mother and I ARE redoing the kitchen. In fact, I took her floor-shopping on Mother’s Day! Well, that IS what she wanted to do, and it was, HER day. Too funny.

Now if I can only hit Powerball. (And if not, I’ll be perfectly happy with the SKIL tools!)

Pimp My Bus

It looks like the Color Splash dude or the Design on a Dime team – both of whom can always be depended on to produce at least one exceptionally loud color in their redesign on their respective HGTV shows – hijacked my bus.

All I can say is that it’s a good thing I already had sunglasses on when I boarded! Our bus interior has gone from a sedate blue plastic frame with a nondescript slate upholstery (and not really enough to keep you from feeling the plastic) to Attack of the Killer M&Ms. See for yourself.

And this photo does not begin to do justice to how bright these things are either. I was the first one on today so I had the joy of watching everyone else’s expressions as they boarded.
This will definitely wake you up in the morning, no doubt about it. I will say that the seats are actually padded, something my butt appreciates beyond expression and, we actually have windows you can slide open. (Previously, it was just a single large piece of Plexiglas. The transom window across the top could be flipped open instead.)

I’m not sure if they just bought new buses (they look the same on the outside) or if they are redoing the interiors of existing ones and slowly rotating those into the mix.
It will be fun to see what tonight’s bus looks like.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


This has nothing to do with map-making. No, this post is about the woes of looking for a kitchen cart.

The mother saw a few at Big Lots recently and wanted me to check them out. I did one night last week. The one she liked was nice, but more than a foot longer than our current one. But what I think really enthralled her was the stainless steel top.
Admittedly, this was nice and a perfect feature or the soon-to-be-new kitchen decor.

So, over the weekend, I spent some time online looking at cart. Holy Mary! Do you have any idea how many different kinds, styles, sizes, finishes and price ranges these little beauties can have? I didn't. I looked at probably 100, showing a handful to the mother who found fault with every one of them (usually price was the final straw) until I hit this ...
YAY! It was instant love for both of us. It was cheaper than the one she'd seen across town (by about $10), and we wouldn't have to pay tax, but the savings would be eaten up by the almost $75 shipping charge!
But, this company also is offering a $25 rebate. And, since this one already has the drawer pull style that we're putting on the cabinets, that's an expense we're spared over the other option. So, that means it's not that much more than the other one!
There's still one variable: what the counter surface is made of. We decided that we like the black (since the stove and microwave will both have black, the color is great). None of the online descriptions I found on this said what it is. Laminate, marble, what?!
The dimensions were another consideration. It is about 6 inches wider than our current one and only about 4 inches longer. In our tiny kitchen, every inch counts. Even so, this should still work.
Here's hoping that the surface material isn't a deal-breaker ...

The Empty-Nesters

When we returned from our shopping trip yesterday, we'd noticed that our mama robin wasn't on her nest. Sometimes, she would fly off as the car entered or left the driveway, so we weren't too surprised.

Off and on during the evening we would peer out the window. There was still no sign of her. "She's abandoned the nest," the mother said. "She probably moved them." I wasn't convinced.

When I woke up this morning, the mother said there was still not sign of the mama bird. As I went outside to check, I spied the mama bird on the end of the nest, busy serving breakfast! I couldn't really see a baby, so I decided to check to make sure. It got quite chilly last night and with no mama around, maybe it had perished.

I came inside and the mother yelled, "Oh, God!" A bird had just struck the kitchen window and dropped down. As I went outside to check, I saw a bird, an awkward-looking robin, fly off. When I went back outside to retrieve a ladder, I saw my neighbor standing in his yard. "One of our babies just hit your window but it got up and flew off."

He told me that they didn't know what had become of the second bird, but that this one had been flying all week and they'd tried to keep tabs on him. Later in the day, I saw the bird again in their yard, identifiable by the tiny bit of down sticking up on his head.

My ladder wasn't tall enough to let me look over the nest (it's pretty high up) but I could see a tiny head and a small clump of tail feathers prostrate across the nest. All I could see was one. Without disturbing it, I clambered down. The mama bird watched cautiously from the adjacent tree and then flew off.

Later in the day, while I was mowing, I saw not one but TWO little heads bobbing up on the nest. At one point, I could see two little bodies jockeying for the upper berth in the nest. It was a sight to behold.

I don't know how long those two will be around, considering that the babies next door have already flown the coop. I worry with the nest being so high that they will either go SPLAT! on top of Ladybird, or on the driveway below. With luck, they'll fall into the sideyard.

Here's hoping for the best!

A Lazy Saturday

As it turned out, I didn't have to work. That became clear at the end of the day Friday.

Since I'd already canceled my RSVP to crop, I just kept it that way. Instead, I slept. And slept. And slept. It was a beautiful thing. I didn't realize how much I needed some extra Zs. (It was a particularly rough week, too, so I was shot.)

It's probably a good thing I did sleep. I ended up not feeling all that well so I can imagine how I might have felt without the extra rest. I was in my pajamas until almost 5! Then, the mother and I did some household shopping. We avoided the hardware stores as we'll have to go there soon enough once the tile arrives.

And for someone who did next to nothing today -- and who got extra sleep to boot -- I'm exhausted.

So I guess I'm going back to bed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Those Fabulous Give-Aways!

We long ago established that I have a thing for tools and if they happen to be power tools, well, so much the better! That’s why I’m a might excited about the current give-away going on over at One Project Closer.

The winner gets a SKIL Lithium Ion Drill/Driver and SKILSAW combo kit – a retail value of $199. Here’s what’s included:
· 2-Speed Drill/Driver, Model 2895
· Includes 2 Double-Ended Bits
· 5-3/8″ SKILSAW, Model 5995
· Includes 5-3/8″ 18T Carbide-Tipped Blade
· 2, 18 volt Lithium Ion Batteries with Charge Meter
· Lithium Ion battery charger
· Rugged carrying case

Now I really do love my Black & Decker cordless drill. It’s already seen me through a variety of projects since I got it for my birthday last year. But the SKIL giveaway items are 18V—almost twice my 9.6V. That would be a welcome upgrade.

But what I’d most like to have is that SAW! Lawrence has a B&D version of that baby circular saw and I love that thing. So, maybe I can score a very early birthday present.

(By the way, you can win, too! Leave a comment on the site to enter. Subscribe to their email and you get 10 more entries. Blog about the contest, and you add 50 entries to that! You’ve got until May 31.)

Mail Call

Sometimes jammed between the catalogs, flyers, and junk, there is real, genuine mail. This week there have been a few pieces that qualify.

First up was a letter from our Secretary of State informing me that my driver’s license expires on my birthday. So, I have to schlep over there, pay my $10, get the ever-dreaded mug shot, and renew it. And, this year I have the added extra joy of having to take a WRITTEN test.

WHAT?! I haven’t taken one of those since I very first got my license a million years ago. Sheesh. Guess I’m going to have to brush up on the Rules of the Road this summer, just to be sure I know them as well as I think.

Thinking ahead, which I don’t always do, I purchased a few graduation cards a few weeks ago. In my circle of nearest and dearest, there are two graduates this year. I was just reminding myself that I needed to deal with those, too. What should appear in the mail? An invitation to a party for the elder of the two graduates (one is high school, the other eighth grade). And, it’s at the barn!

I haven’t been to the “party barn,” as it’s more affectionately known, in a while. It really IS quite the place. The barn used to be an antique store. On its first floor, is a ginormous garage and a gift shop area that the current owners have kept in tact. Instead of selling anything, it now displays a model car collection and a variety of curiosities.

Upstairs, in the loft, think neighborhood bar. It has a stage, karaoke machine, and several tall, bar-style tables. It has been the scene of many a raucous night for my friends.

And no description would be complete without mentioning that the barn property also includes a gorgeous, ante-bellum mansion. Love, love, love that place!

I guess that’s one card I won’t have to mail. I think it’s safe to say that Pearl and I will be there.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rethinking the Order

Thanks to the sound advice about the tiling (thanks Gene and MG), I’ve decided to not tile before Lawrence comes.

As for removing the commode, I don’t think we can go 24 hours without one, so I’ll just have to cut around it as I have previously. (Except for last time. That’s when we got the new commode so I just cut to allow for the ring. And since it was vinyl, put it down and walk on it was fine.)

That won’t be the case this time, that’s for sure! Everything I’ve read says minimum of 24 hours and ideally closer to 48 BEFORE grouting. And then THAT has to dry. D*mn. This sounds like an awful lot of work, especially in a tiny, little room. Now I’ve read so much stuff about the process, I’m even a little paranoid about it. So, probably best to delay and take a few deep breaths.

Instead, I think I’ll work top to bottom. The mother is supposed to be painting two more ceiling panels today, for a total of four. (I may need a fifth, but I’m not sure. Going to have to measure it again.) After Lawrence puts in the exhaust fan next week, I’ll know what I need to allow for it (whether it’s bigger, smaller or the same as the current one). Hopefully, the Michelangelo Project will go smoothly!

We’re in for more rain tomorrow and into Saturday. I have some business to do on Saturday, so I had to cancel my plans to crop. Instead, I’ll probably try to finish the shed on Saturday afternoon if it isn’t raining. For right now at least, there’s no rain on Sunday, so that will likely be yard day. Ugh.


They aren't ours, but the low-lying nest in the neighbors' pine tree is a busy place these days. Somehow, while I was busy with other things, this

turned into these!
How cute are they?! We've all been watching so they don’t fall victim to the prowling neighborhood cats. There are only two, so not sure if the third one didn't hatch or just didn't make it.

Then, yesterday, the mother called to tell me that we have baby birds! Or, at least one. Since our nest is so high up, it’s hard to say. If we didn’t occasionally see a bobbing down-filled head, we wouldn’t even know. We wondered though because we've occasionally spied her standing on the edge of the nest since Sunday.

I’ve only seen one head, but when she feeds, it appears the mother bird goes deep inside the nest, so there may be at least one other. I’m hesitant to get a ladder and take a peek, but I may do it this weekend just to see!

I checked on ours this morning, and in spite of last night’s storm, the nest is still firmly in place. The mama was busy serving breakfast but since she stiffens when I’m out there, I didn’t try to get a shot. Those young’ns (or singulary if there is just the one) need to eat!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Microwave Under the Table

Work geared up in a big way at the end of the day yesterday. (This is good news, though for right now, it adds to the chaos and may cost me the extended holiday vacation time I’d requested. It will also likely cause me to alter my weekend plans.)

The microwave was purchased and the bathroom floor ordered last night. Since we don’t want to put the new microwave out yet with all the work that’s still ahead, right now it is jammed beneath the dining room table, unboxed, and adjacent to the still unboxed 7-ft. pieces of egg and dart molding.

While Pearl wasn’t meant to be a workhorse, she hauled the microwave home. I put plastic and carmats across the backseat since the box was too big to fit in the trunk. (It barely made it through the car door!)

The mother was only able to paint two of the bathroom ceiling tiles yesterday. The tiles are so light and the wind was so rugged, she couldn’t keep them under control. She’s hand-painting these as they will be the same glossy black that is on her bedroom ceiling. If she had been trying to do the kitchen panels, which are being sprayed, she would never even have started. The wind was just too much.

I need to remeasure the kitchen and then figure out how much tile I need and what I need to put it down with. I’m trying to decide if I should start tiling the bathroom the night before Lawrence comes and get to the commode and have him take it up while he’s there, tile that and then put it back before he leaves. Can you put a commode back down onto a recently grouted floor?

Now there’s a question I never thought of before! And, would he be able to put a stepstool on it to take down the overhead light? Hmmm. Logistics, logistics, logistics.

Glad I’m thinking about this stuff now. (You know, as opposed to when I've tiled myself into a corner ... without a crapper.)

Book Break

Yeah. Like I have time to read. As if.

Nevertheless, earlier this spring I waited patiently after preordering Unbelievable. The subtitle says it all: Investigations into ghosts, poltergeists, telepathy, and other unseen phenomena from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory.

A little over a year ago I read author Stacy Horn’s Waiting for My Cats to Die (thank you, KayO) after which I discovered Stacy's personal blog. That’s how I first heard that she was about to release Unbelievable.

Unbelievable? Well, that all depends on you. If you’ve ever had a paranormal experience (and I’ve had a few, spending part of my young years in a haunted house) you might not find it so unbelievable. Even if you haven’t, Stacy’s approach to the book may leave you open-minded.

And if you plain just don’t believe, the book will introduce you to J.B. Rhine, who founded the parapsychology lab at Duke University. He didn’t seem to believe either, but even he had to concede that some of the encounters he reviewed defied a scientific explanation – as much as he might have liked to assign them one.

Stacy had the rare privilege of combing through the files of the parapsychology lab and looking at decades worth of cases that J.B. Rhine and his associates had to pick from. While Rhine himself focused almost exclusively on ESP/telepathy, the book highlights some of the requests the center received through the years ranging from investigating mediums and séances, poltergeists, spectral hauntings, to missing children. Some of these were cases the center explored while others were politely declined.

It’s a factual account with Stacy seeking out some of the subjects of the decades-old cases for interviews, or quoting directly from the files themselves. It’s a balanced approach as Rhine certainly weathered his share of criticism.

This is not a Stephen King page-turner, nor is it intended to be. It is, after all, facts not fiction. (And sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction.) The book doesn’t seek to build a case for one view or the other, just puts all of them out there for the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

I found it fascinating that people have been trying to come to grips with the unseen for centuries and that nearly a century ago, scientists were trying to provide it with definitions and explanations. This book is definitely a good read.

Put it on your summer reading list!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Return of a Familiar Face

It’s been a crazy year and except for the shed, the mother and I have been reduced to collectors of DIY materials thus far. That ends today.

After I picked Pearl up and finally got home last night, the mother said that Lawrence had called. He must be psychic as I’ve been making a mental list of “Lawrence to-do’s” for weeks now. It’s just been SO crazy, I never got around to calling him and suddenly, Memorial Day is almost here!

I’m trying to score vacation days around the holiday so I can have a good deal of consecutive days in which to work. Ideally, that starts next Thursday when Lawrence is going to come and do a variety of odd jobs. That will include removing the light fixtures in both the bathroom and kitchen and putting up a new exhaust fan in the bathroom.

Today, the mother is painting the ceiling panels for the bathroom. That will give them plenty of time to dry before Lawrence arrives next week. It means I will have over a week to get them installed before he comes back to put the light back up in the bathroom and put the new light up in the kitchen. And, it gives us some time to find a nice medallion to put around the light. (It will help break up the black ceiling by having a ring of white around the light and a square of white where the fan is.)

So, things are getting started. The painting will have to wait as later today and for most of the rest of the week, rain is forecast. Luckily, next week looks drier. Here’s hoping!

A Floor and More

The kitchen plans are progressing – but changing all the time.

We aren’t getting a new countertop, at least not this year. The mother can’t find one she’s happy with and we can’t agree on a color scheme. So, for now, those will stay. (Plus, that’s a big help costwise, too, and expands the budget a bit.)

The cabinets are going a slightly darker woodgrain, not white after all. But, that should work with the stainless appliances, the tin ceiling and backsplash ( I won that argument, ahem), and this floor. It ain’t exciting, but it’s neutral enough to pull it off.

What’s odd is that it’s the same floor we looked at more than a year ago, and brought a sample home. A sample that is still sitting on the kitchen counter!

While finding a kitchen floor was the main focus of Sunday’s trip, Lowe’s managed to milk a bit more money out of the visit. We took a few pieces of the kitchen tile over to the appliance department and stuck it in front of a stainless stove. We liked the result.

As we rounded a corner to return to flooring, we passed a display of microwaves. The mother saw a different GE model she liked and it was just $5 more than the model we were going to buy at Home Depot. (Now I’m really glad I hesitated.) And Lowe’s had the best price out there. (Sears wanted almost $70 more for the same one!)

Returning to flooring, we decided to see if we could find anything for the bathroom. (I’ve always found Lowe’s to be great for flooring.) Booyah! We found this.

We both instantly liked it. The bad news: It’s kind of pricey. And, it’s special order. (I HATE SPECIAL ORDER anything.) The good news: It’s on sale! The better news: Most people have closets bigger than our bathroom, so we won’t need very much of it.

I worried that it might be too busy in the bathroom, so we brought home a sample. When I laid it in the bathroom, I changed my mind.

I think the white floor will be the perfect complement to the black tin ceiling and the little black accents will really make the black ball parts of the gingerbread pop. (And, it will reverse our current white ceiling/black floor scheme.) So I think that it will all work quite nicely.

What do you think?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mine For a Day

I had to take Pearl back to the dealership today to have the promised paint touch-ups done. It didn’t get off to a good start.

First, when we got home with the car last week, I noticed a tiny windshield chip. Initially, I thought that it was bird doo or dirt, so it was easy to overlook. Though it’s an easy enough fix, I think the dealership should take care of it. Fat chance. They’re doing me a “favor” and having it repaired at “their cost.” Gee. Thanks.

You’d think for something so small you’d be willing to go the extra mile with a new customer, one you could potentially see in the future. Think again.
It’s small, but it still pissed me off. Makes me wonder what it will be like if something warranteed happens.

Then, this morning, I arrived at the dealership within 5 minutes of the service center opening. My salesman had given me instructions on where to go and said a loaner car would be waiting. The service tech looked at me like I’d walked off a space ship.

“I don’t have a record of anything like that or of a loaner car,” he said. “I’ve got nothing here.” Then, and here’s the kicker, he says: “ Maybe you called XXXXx.” That ‘s a dealership down the street. I quickly pointed to the company’s advertising license plate/holder, still on the front of the car that I purchased from that very location NINE DAYS AGO. Yeah. Stupid woman doesn’t remember where she bought her car!

He went off to get a manager. I was on the road in a loaner car five minutes later – which brings me to the topic of this post.
It’s not a bad-looking car (even if Consumer Reports does have it on its Worst of the Worst list). But once you’re inside the 2008 Pontiac G6, it becomes clear pretty fast that this ain’t Pearl!

I audibly groaned when I had to manually slide the seat forward and then had to try to manually adjust the seatback (from a position practically lying in the back seat). Where’s my Memory Seat?! (I am entirely too spoiled. And after just nine days!)

Fortunately, the stereo seemed comparable to Pearl’s so I popped in the CD I’d been listening to on the way to the dealership to soothe me for the drive downtown. I pulled into a big parking lot across from the dealership to turn around, rather than fight traffic to get into the appropriate lane. I felt like I was steering a Sherman tank. (Steering Pearl is pretty effortless.) When I needed to get a little “giddyap” to get around traffic, this car did it, but begrudgingly, making a lot of noise in the process.

I’ve only been in the world of 21st Century driving nine days and I’m already irreparably spoiled. I’ve come a long way since the last time I really loved a car. (My first – a ’74 VW Super Beetle. A 4-banger with absolutely NO power of any kind. Not even power steering. It’s probably the only car where you’d have to scrape the INSIDE of the windows in winter. It was already a teenager when I got it, but I loved that car, nevertheless.)

I never did get the G6 seat into a comfortable position, so it’s lucky that I only had a 15-minute or so drive. I was telling one of my colleagues about my adventures, and much like the techs at the service center who watched me struggle to adjust the seat, she couldn’t help but chuckle. “When you get older, I think it becomes more important that you’re comfortable when you’re driving,” she said.

Then I thought of how the mother would react to the various cars I owned during Ladybird’s tenure. She was less than a decade older than I am now and she would constantly criticize the lack of power, the brakes, the seats … in the three cars I owned between 1993 and 2001. They all seemed OK to me – then. D*mn. It all makes so much sense now. Clearly, I’m now old and very spoiled indeed.

Here’s hoping that my car, my beautiful Pearl, is in better shape than when I left it this morning and that I can get this dog of a loaner safely returned to them. It may be newer and have just a few less miles (only around 10,000 fewer) than Pearl, but they can have it.

A Final Resting Place

My dear, dear friend CD made a recommendation some time back about a sweet shop/gift shop and a garden store in a neighboring town. She followed this up with an email flyer about the two businesses last week.

Her timing was perfect as when we were returning from lunch on the day the mother had all the tests done, we drove right by the garden place. (In my mind, I thought they were at the same location. So, it looks like we have yet another adventure on which to take Pearl in the near future!) I pulled in.

They not only have a nursery, but all kinds of nifty decorative and gift items. There was a smaller, flat version of this, but the second I saw it, I knew I had to buy it. As our longest-standing dude – either right at or just shy of 17 years – Tigger definitely deserves it. This now marks his space on the other side of the window.

And now that I've managed to mow the yard, it looks even nicer. In fact, the yard looks great.

The mother even said yesterday that it would be great if the yard “could just stay like this.” I couldn’t agree more.

Anyone know about a product whereby you can shellac a lawn? You’d make a billion dollars with something like that!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It's the hugest job I think anyone can ever undertake: being a parent. And while dads are certainly an important part of the equation, there's something about a mother.

From the minute a woman finds out she's pregnant, she truly is a different person. Before she can ever meet her child she goes through a physical and psychological transformation that to this day, continues to amaze me. I, of course, have only seen it second-hand, but have been awestruck by it just the same.

Everyone's mother is different. And every mother-daughter dynamic is different. (No offense guys, but we have a completely different relationship with mom than you do.) But, if they're a good mother, they really are all the same. While they may go about it diffently, mothers just want their children to be happy and healthy.

As we age, it becomes so much easier to see our parents as people, not the iconic figures they are to us when we're 3 feet tall. We see their fears and shortcomings and sometimes even their unfulfilled dreams.

But, we also get to a place where we can fully appreciate their achievements, their better qualities, and the things they overcame to be where they are today.

My mother drives me crazy. Sometimes, she can be the most stubborn and immovable person I think I've ever met. (Should I wonder where I get it?) She is honest, sometimes brutally so. She does not issue a compliment readily. She is impatient. She has expectations that, by design, are made to disappoint. She makes me repeat myself -- constantly -- something I hate to do.

But most of these are pluses. That iron will -- it has gotten both she and I through more than one difficult time, times when other people would simply have crumbled. When she truly wants something, no is not a word she utters or hears. The brutal honesty? When she does pay a compliment, you know she truly means it, she's not just being nice. And while the unreal expectations can at times be disappointing, she's taught me to not only expect more, but to achieve it.

The mother is entirely too hard on herself, never giving credit for the many skills and gifts she possesses. I've never met anyone who has the design vision that she does. She can decorate an entire place inside 15 minutes -- in her mind's eye.

She has a gift for handling creatures that rivals Dr. Doolittle. She's nursed back to health, and comforted in their final hours, more creatures than you'd find at any zoo.

The mother is generous to a fault. (She scares me sometimes because I'm afraid that one of the people she thinks she is helping, may help themselves to more.) She can be compassionate and kind. And a friend? This is loyalty that most of us only dream of generating in others.

And she's a crafty sort, always good at making or modifying things. She wraps gifts that or so pretty people don't want to open them!

While it might not always seem so, I'm proud to have her as my mother. But try to do something to her, I think you'd find out pretty quick just how fiercely and how much I love her.

And I know that's a two-way street. (Everyone should feel that loved.)

Seeing her excited about something is a kind of happiness I can't describe.
We have our moments, the mother and I. We work together, play together, laugh together, cry together.

And I can't imagine my life without her. Happy Mother's Day to my mother and all you moms. (And moms-to-be!)

Halfway to Normal

The mother got half her results back from last week's tests: normal. That's half. We're still waiting on the other half. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers. They've gotten us to the halfway mark so far!

She's still pretty psyched about the house and I was given strict instructions not to do anything for Mother's Day. Technically, I did get her a refrigerator, so I shouldn't worry about it.

More than anything, I just want her to be OK. And we're halfway there ...

I am wiped out. I started the day doing six loads of laundry. Then I mowed the yard which was a nightmare. I loaded five bags of clippings and took them to the dump. Then I put my wash away and changed my bed.

I feel like I've been hit by a bus. I've got to go and get some sleep. Tomorrow (or technically, today Iguess) we're going floor shopping.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stormy Weather

The storm clouds have rolled away. They only made a brief appearance, arriving last night around sundown and then disappearing until late morning. And now, the sun is out!

But last night, we had showers, a few brief downpours (very brief), but hours and hours of lightning. I decided to see if I could get anything with the new camera.

Not much. Timing is everything with these kinds of shots as you can see below. If you look just above the weathervane you’ll see a single, fading vein of what had been a rather impressive strike trailing off into the distance.

On this shot, I reacted a split-second too soon. Just as the camera was completing its capture, the whole sky lit up.

It's important to note that this was at 9 something at night, so it was pitch black out. Even so, I didn't get much. This was as close to getting anything as I'd get.

What I found out this morning was that a few hours later, wind ripped roofs off of buildings and leveled some historic shops in a town about 15 miles away. Pretty freaky!

Pea Soup

I tried to capture some lightning shots last night. We had one of those wonderful light shows that comes with only a few drops of rain, but a burst of lightning in every piece of the sky.

So I tried to capture lightning with the new camera for the first time. I didn't do so hot. I might share one or two of the more ominous-looking ones later.

However, the pea soup that has enveloped our area today, can be captured quite nicely. I shot these while I was waiting for the bus at the main depot.

In the shot above there is a car coming down that street! Can you see it? I couldn't while I was taking the shot. I only noticed it after the camera was away from my face and the car was rolling through the stop sign.

It really was kind of spooky. Like something out of a John Carpenter movie or a Stephen King novel. This was the view RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. And that space off to the left. That's where the buses pull up. You could see NOTHING there. Not that I could tell. Luckily, there was at least some light outside or this could have been a whole lot worse. Of course, I did drive across town in it. It doesn't creep me out the way it does the mother. More than the scary, I tend to think more of the last part of Gone With the Wind where Scarlett is running home through the fog to Rhett from the Wilkes’ house. The fog which is both a literal and metaphorical symbol of her love for Ashley. (Yeah, I skew to the hopeless romantic side. God help me.)

Even so, standing in the middle of an area that is somewhat desolate to begin with at 7 a.m. when it’s not all that light out yet, can have just a bit of an edge to it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Work Imitates DIY

Today, my worklife began to imitate my DIY life.

You know – those projects where you know it’s going to take a little time, but you’ve planned it out and you figure you have all the right tools. Then, when it comes time to actually do the work, it’s a whole ‘nother story. Well, that was today in a nutshell.

On the plus side, 7 a.m. rapidly became 10 a.m. which politely turned into 12:30 which almost instantly transformed into 4 p.m. And from there, 5 p.m. was a blink. I love when that happens.

I did not hear from the mother today. I’m guessing that means that the mother didn’t hear from the doctor. (Not surprising. This guy surpasses my doctor when it comes to the failing to call you back category.) Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean good news. So I guess we wait until tomorrow.

After a brief darkening of the sky, the sun is out again. If it’s not raining when I get home, I really should try to mow the yard. It’s a mess – and with rain on tap for tonight and tomorrow, it’s only going to get worse.

I guess we’ll just see how I feel when I get there and what the weather looks like outside.

Something Resembling a Plan

The mother was worn after spending yesterday morning being poked, pushed and prodded. It was with some surprise then that I heard her say, “You want to go to look for a microwave?”

After lunch and a brief rest, we did just that. It was a very welcome distraction and quite an enlightening trip. We found out:

1) Frigidaire is coming out with a new line of appliances in the next month or two. That could explain why the range we’re looking at is being marked down at so many places, including the one we will ultimately buy from.

2) The mother prefers the stove we are currently looking at to the new model coming out. She got to see the stove in person AND a picture of the new one coming out. She preferred the one in her presence. (This makes me very happy as I like it, too, and it will probably mean spending $400-$500 less for something that doesn’t look as good and doesn’t really have added features.)

3) What the underneath of various range hoods look like and which ones we liked.

4) That the range hood we really liked can be had for just a little more online than the in-store model (and its predecessor) we initially felt compelled to go with.

5) That it looks like Home Depot really does have the best deal on a microwave.

So I think we have worked out all of the appliances. I think. (Quick rundown: Refrigerator -- purchased. Stove -- Chosen. Range Hood -- Chosen. Microwave -- Chosen.) Next choices: countertop and flooring.

Again, thanks for all the prayers and well wishes yesterday. They really do mean a lot. Remember us today, too, as we wait to hear the results.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

With Sincere Thanks

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your kind words and loving support. It really means a lot to me and I genuinely appreciate it.

The mother was a super trooper today though I suspected (and turned out to be right) that she really wanted to punch out the gal administering the breathing tests. Everyone was very nice and very helpful today, even though it's not a medical facility I have much faith in. If we DO find out that something is wrong, we are NOT dealing with these people.

We didn't hear anything before we left the hospital this afternoon, but it sounded like all went well. I'm hoping that is what we hear tomorrow.

One of the things I saw in the waiting room today was a list of all the changes that occur in your body when you stop smoking. I'm proud to report that the mother is on her TWELFTH smoke-free day. I already recognized many of the changes in the mother that this paper described.

If you know me in real life, then you know what a tolerant non-smoker I am. I am against bans and think that some laws to prosecute offenders are unConstitutional. And I truly appreciate how hard it must be to quit. (Luckily, this wasn't a habit I ever picked up.)

But I have to tell you, those near and dear to me who smoke (you know who you are) or, if you have someone near and dear to you that smokes, I wish you would quit. Don't make me worry this way about YOU!

There. That's all. No big speech. I'll even love you for trying!


It's a rainy Wednesday morning. Ordinarily, I'd already be at work. But not today.

The house. The new car. The job. All the sources of both joy and pain, and usually the focus of so much of my real and virtual life, seem really unimportant today.

Based on the doctor's appointment she had a few weeks ago, I'm taking the mother in for a series of tests today. It's a little unnerving to step completely into the parental role, but it's what I need to do, so I'll manage it.

Appreciate prayers, happy thoughts, and all manner of good vibes you can send our way today!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Perils in Appliance Shopping

I dreamed about appliances last night. I don’t know what the dream was or what transpired, but I clearly recall a blinding amount of stainless steel. Hmmm. I wonder why that could be. Maybe because appliance shopping sucks?

It could be that since the weekend, I know I’ve glanced at at least 1,000 different ranges, range hoods, and microwaves. (We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliver reh reh eh eh ehs) Sorry. My brain tuned into the 80s for just a minute and I had a college flashback. Could be all that time I've spent either in a store or online lately comparing appliances!

The reason I’ve looked at so many is because we changed plans and then changed them again. We decided to look at “slide-in” stoves which open directly to the backsplash and to find a coordinating over-the-range microwave. I’d narrowed down a few suspects when it occurred to me that these microwaves were pretty tall. There didn’t seem like there would be a lot of room between the top of a pot on the stove and the exhaust fan/light above it!

So I began searching for some kind of guidance on how much clearance between stove-top and microwave is needed. I don’t remember right now what the minimum is (I want to say 30 inches), but whatever it is, we don’t have it! That meant we had to go back to full-size ranges.

I’ve managed to narrow that to two for the mother to pick between. (A GE and a Frigidaire, both quite nice.) I also found a few nice range hoods, though they aren’t fancy. (The ones I like cost five or six times the ones I’m recommending to the mother.) But microwaves. Ah, there’s the rub!

We want a full-size countertop model in stainless finish and the mother insists that it have a handle similar to the stove and refrigerator. The odds aren’t working in my favor. Almost all the countertop microwaves with handles are small-sized. The ones that have the handles that I need to see and that are the size we want are over-the-range models.

In general, full-size countertop models don’t have handles. They’re designed that way to be “sleek and unobtrusive” on a countertop. Makes sense. Our current, almost 14-year-old model doesn’t have a handle. You mainly find them on smaller units, I'm guessing so that the latch mechanism doesn't take up space on the control panel.

Even so, I found a few to recommend to the mother. I even found a couple I like, including a Panasonic model, which is the brand we have now. And, in all these years, nary a problem.

I also found an ideal Whirlpool handle – no microwave, just a handle. Wondering if I could incorporate it onto one of the handle-free models I like …

Tuesday ToolTalk: Mr. Clean Erasers

I bought a new tool last week but I’ve not yet had the opportunity to use it. So, today, I’m highlighting a cleaning tool that’s been in This D*mn House since it was put on the market: Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.

The mother swears by these things. She uses them both inside and outside of the house, and she’s gotten me to use them, too. They’re great for removing the errant scuff or ground-in mark from painted walls, ceramic and vinyl floors – and sometimes, even your shoes and handbags!
They’re equally good at wiping grub and grime away from bathroom fixtures and around other wood and metal surfaces like door trim and baseboards.

And that’s what brings me to this post: I discovered a new use for them yesterday.
The mother, being a female version of Felix Unger (the Odd Couple neat freak immortalized by Jack Lemmon on film and Tony Randall on television) has been distraught over a thick band of dirt/discoloration across the middle of Pearl’s driver seat. Except for the occasional chip or gouge, the car is in virtual showroom condition, so leave it to the mother to agonize over a minor flaw.

I went online to see if I could find anything that might remedy it. As leather automotive seats are more the rule than the exception these days, it didn’t take me long. Someone had posed the very question I did: How do you remove ground-in dirt from a leather car interior? The answer: Mr. Clean Magic Erasers!

Within 10 minutes of relating this to the mother last night, she was in the car trying it. She had some impressive success, too, as that band has diminished significantly. (She’ll be back at it today.) A few things to bear in mind if you try this:
· If your stain is in plain sight, try this on a spot where it isn’t, just to make sure that it won’t discolor your surface.
· Rub lightly, gently increasing pressure to get to a level where the dirt disappears.
· If you do use this on leather (upholstery, furniture, shoes and accessories) after buffing it lightly and allowing to air dry, follow up with a round of replenishing treatment like leather lotion to avoid over-drying and cracking your leather.

I thought maybe Procter & Gamble would offer a coupon on their site, but they did not. However, if you still have your Sunday newspaper, you may find a coupon for buy one/get one. We had one in ours and I guarantee it will be put to good use. These really are a remarkable product.
One caveat: They do dissipate quickly. So if you hope to cover a lot of ground or a particularly dirty surface, have plenty on hand.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Mighty Mississippi

Luckily, we didn't get the rain that had been forecast over the weekend. I'm afraid to think what the river would look like if we had considering it looked like this today.

I'm glad we cut that break since we're now going into yet another round of rainy days, if the forecast is to be believed.

The only way you can get down Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd. right now is by boat!

And if that additional rain happens, we might not see Lewis & Clark for a while. In fact, you can't see much of them right now! What? You can't see them.

Look closer. Just to the right of the cluster of highway signs ...

Yep. Hat in hand. That's all you can see of the famous duo.
Even their boat isn't doing them much good.

From a Distance

It’s still surreal to see that car in the driveway. From across the street (where I catch my bus) it looks quite nice. It truly looks as if it belongs there, that car that I now almost know enough about to drive safely. I still don’t know exactly how to run the climate control system but I think I have the wipers down pat now.

Trying to teach all this to the mother –who has trouble with the cable remote control – has been hilarious. But she’s been an eager student. In fact, she has been every bit as excited, if not a little more, than I about it. And for me, that’s a bonus. The mother just doesn’t get that excited about too many things. So, between the car and the refrigerator, she’s floating. We find out about the insurance today and I have a feeling that’s going to ground both of us!

I had to almost wrestle the driver’s seat back from her Saturday, even though she had refused to drive it at the dealership and she insisted that I drive it home. After a few short trips and several visits out to it after consulting the manual, the mother seems inifintely more comfortable with it. And that’s a really good thing, because I didn’t want to buy anything she wouldn’t be comfortable in.

But the weekend wasn’t all about the car.

We now have a tentative plan and a very clear focus on our house plans. The room of the moment is the kitchen. The refrigerator comes in six weeks or maybe it’s seven. At any rate, late June. The goal is to have everything ready in the kitchen to just appliances into place. The current appliances, instead of being hauled away, will go to my late great-uncle’s house since they’re newer and nicer and will ideally help it show better and help our cousin to sell that house.
So there’s lots to do between now and then.

First, we have to decide about the cabinets. Stain them more of a cherry (currently a pecan) or pain them white? I initially was leaning toward the cherry, but now I’m leaning more toward the white. (The room is SO small. And I’ve since seen several kitchens with white cabinets and stainless appliances and liked them. I think the brighter color will make it look bigger.)

From there, we’ll have to pick a countertop and floor. And that means I need to call my buddy Lawrence. (We’ll need a new subfloor in the kitchen for me to tile on.) I’m a little skeptical about this time frame, but always up for the challenge.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rewriting A Love Story

After all but passing out before midnight last night, I found I couldn’t sleep in this morning. I just couldn’t sleep. I laid in bed for an hour before finally just getting up. Must be leftover excitement from yesterday.

I still only have a cursory understanding of how things in the car work, even after going through a “cheat sheet” pamphlet and thumbing through the 2-inch thick owner’s manual. I made a quick run to the milk store by myself last night just as the sun was going down and nearly jumped through my skin when I pulled in the driveway, turned off the car, and the interior lights came on! This car does everything but drive itself which is scary in a way because that means there are that many more things that can go wrong.

In all the excitement of the car, I nearly forgot what I had done on Friday (and confirmed yesterday during the mother’s and my decadent shopping trip).

Remember the refrigerator that the mother fell in love with that would NOT fit in our kitchen. Well, I found a Maytag that, while not the same brand as her unrequited love, LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE IT and, WILL fit! And here’s the most beautiful part of all. You’ll want to pay attention to this if you could use something from Home Depot.

Through May 4, you can get 10 percent off online purchases at! Just use the code SAVE22. (I did find that there are some things it WON'T let you buy online. Lowe's is a little more liberal in this category.

And, if you’re in the market for appliances, May is “Maytag Month.” You can get a MasterCard giftcard up to $150 when you buy certain appliances or sets of appliances. (The refrigerator is worth a $75 one.)

So, in the past 24 hours, I’ve bought a car and a refrigerator. (Trying not to panic by reminding self that these are things we have been saving for.) Perhaps I’ve changed my name to Rockefeller. This might not be a bad time to check my Powerball ticket.