Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How the Internet Saved Me From Prison

On the way home from our shopping jaunt, the mother was fumbling in the dark of the car, looking for a CD. She finally jammed one in.

"I hate to break this to you," says I as the CD began to play. "But that's MY CD you just put in." (We each have a CD in the car, burned special by me.) The fumbling begins anew.

"So where's MY CD?" barks the mother. "It WAS here."

It's there, I tell her. The fumbling and bitching continue. Finally, I can stand it no more and pull into the entrance of a cul-de-sac of a ritzy subdivision. I throw the car in park, flip the interior light on, and start digging. There's her Miles Davis CD. There's her Chris Botti CD. But the one I burned? Nowhere to be seen.

I'm overcome with terror as I realize what I think has happened: her CD already WAS IN THE PLAYER and then she PUT MINE IN OVER IT!

There are times I'd like to strangle the mother. (To be clear, I love my mother. I do. But, she can be difficult. And her issues with all things electronic is one of those things that lights my fuse.) And if there was ever a time I wanted to strangle her, it was right then as she insisted that she did not leave the CD in there to begin with. Then, it was somehow my fault. The restraint I exercised this evening is nothing short of legendary.

It was a long drive home.

But it would be the Internet that would be my salvation. And a lovely little site called howtomendit.com with this answer. I was afraid to try it at first, but I knew I'd not have any peace until I tried.


And I didn't have to go to prison.

It Keeps You Runnin'

From my office window, I watched my bus pull away from the curb. Suffice it to say that it’s been a busy day. I’ll take it though. I actually prefer it this way.

I also remembered that the Lowe’s coupons expire tomorrow and I have grocery coupons that expire TODAY. We need to get the new tub enclosure and the trim for downstairs and make arrangements to have them delivered.

And, I still need to call Lawrence and find out when he’s going on vacation and when he’ll be back. I can’t take any vacation right now. At least it will be a short week.

Damn. I was looking forward to settling in with the work I need to do and just taking it easy.
So much for that plan.

A Normal Temperature

It’s so nice to walk outside and not only not feel like a plastic bag has just been thrown over your head, but to also feel cool. Comfortably cool.

A degree of normalcy returned to our weather Sunday. When I went outside to mow, I was greeted by cool air and a gentle breeze – not the fire on the cooktop, blow dryer in your face heat that we’d been dealing with for more than 10 days. That included Saturday’s wedding where nearly everyone was in dress clothes and breaking a sweat as a result.

I was only outside maybe 10 minutes yesterday and that was during the fridge departure mid-morning. It was very pleasant indeed. And today appears to be a carbon copy. Finally – on the last day of June, we get June weather!

Supposedly, the heat has moved out west. So, if you’re the beneficiary of it, I tender my sympathies.

Monday, June 29, 2009

One Fridge Per Kitchen, Please

It wasn't good to be under the influence of Benadryl when they came to take away the old fridge today.

It was the same duo who came to take the old stove a few weeks ago, along with the mother's friend. Being a little woozy, I threw on some clothes and stood by to supervise. They were armed with an appliance dolly this time -- and one that wasn't filthy. They were also very respectful and VERY careful, something they weren't last time. (I think one of the mother's other friends said something to the friend getting the appliances.) Whatever the reason, it was a welcome change.

About the most stressful part was that they had to take the front door off. While the guys who brought the new refrigerator did, too, these guys do that kind of thing every day. Not to mention that Gene, one of the two delivery guys, looked a lot like Michael Duncan Clarke, including his build. So, the "3,000-pound door" as he called it wasn't much of a challenge.

Luckily, the door came off and went back on with no major issues.

What that means is that we now have one, that's right, ONE refrigerator in This D*mn Kitchen! And it's this one. And yes, it's still covered in plastic on the front -- and will be until we finish the kitchen!

The one as close to the one the mother wanted as I can make it. The one that I'm really loving because of the pull-out drawer of a freezer. The one that I love because the door to the fridge clears the trash can. The one that no longer makes me kneel down on the floor just to get a soda!

In short, her once doomed love story has been completely rewritten -- and even has a happy ending for me!

Today, the silver lining to my not feeling well was that she decided to make me an omelet since that's soft and not likely to further irritate my throat. It was a test run for the new stove and it passed with flying colors! She was surprised by how easy it was to flip it and how quickly it cooked.

One question though for those of you with smoothtop surfaces: Does it always take 15 minutes for the burner to cool down and the light to go off?

Since this was our first experience with one, neither of us knew what to expect so we kept checking it to make sure it would go off. Any tips or warnings on smoothtops?


I've been having sinus trouble for more than a week now. I think my allergy meds aren't working anymore. (This happens every few years.) I've been so busy that I've ignored the little signs.

The congestion. The light-sensitivity. The minor nausea from drainage. The occasional coughing fit.

And I ignored them at my peril. The eyes started in with a vengeance while I was mowing yesterday. The persistent tickle in my throat become all-out barking last night. I didn't sleep much. But after the little sleep I did get, I awoke with a throat as raw as a rare steak. Lovely.

So until I can call the allergist later, I'm going to pop a Benadryl and ride it out. Here's hoping it has its usual effect on me and just plain knocks me out!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Losing Track

Saturday is a blur. I was up before 7 (something that doesn’t happen a lot) and started moving things around and carrying things downstairs and outside to make room for the arrival of the new refrigerator.

Then, I went outside and buffed off Pearl and Ladybird, cleaned Ladybird’s windows and threw on some tire foam to shine them up. (The mother had cleaned Pearl on Friday, but we made an impromptu shopping trip Friday night, during which we picked up a lot of bug guts. I, in turn, ran Ladybird through the car wash and buffed her off on my way home from work as I’d driven her to the bus depot.)

By now, it was 8:30 and there was still no sign of the refrigerator. Hmm. Well, they did say between 8 and noon. I’d barely completed that thought when the phone rang.

“Hi and good morning. This is Gene. I’ve got a refrigerator for you …”

Forty minutes later (and they’d given a 15-minute arrival time) the new fridge was sitting in the kitchen and they were gone. That included both taking off and putting back on the front door! They were awesome, very careful with everything. Can’t say enough good things about Gene and Bill.

After reshuffling things, I started looking for dress shoes and dashed off for a haircut in preparation for the wedding this afternoon. And then, there was the wedding …

When we walked in the church, we were greeted by an usher who was unmistakably my cousin’s son. (Looks just like him.) I hadn’t seen him – except in Christmas card pictures – since he was about six months old. Then, there was the bride, another cousin’s daughter. I hadn’t seen her since she was maybe 9 or 10, until she was on TV last year at a job fair and we just happened to catch the news broadcast.

This went on throughout the whole day and evening. I saw cousins I hadn’t seen in 25 years, got updates on all their kids, and even met or was reintroduced to a few. So many of them are grandparents or about to become them. It’s crazy.

My cousin Dago (he with the trusty backhoe to take out my fence and haul away my sidewalk) was there and I finally got to meet his daughter. She’s 12. His wife was with their son at a baseball tournament, so I’ll have to meet him another time. I saw my cousin, J.L., for the first time in close to a decade and met his wife for the first time. (They’ve only been married 13 years.)

I don’t have any first cousins on the mother’s side, but the other side makes up for it in abundance. On that side, I have 18 first cousins. About half of them were at the reception. Of those, I spoke to all but one. (That’s her problem. Whatever.) So it was an enjoyable evening all around.

I found out that one of my cousins now lives five minutes away. I also learned that another cousin’s husband works about a block from me – and their son is interning RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET! I got updates on several of the cousins who weren’t there, including at least one ill-fated DIY story (which I’ll share later.)

It’s funny as all of my father’s siblings are now gone. Growing up, I logged a lot of hours at their homes. My cousins and I had a lot of good times, saw a lot of insanity, shared some tragedies. And, as with most people in our lives, we lost track. Not completely. But in huge gaps.

I was always particularly close to Dago, who is three years older, and J.L., who is a year younger -- each of us the youngest child, or in my case ONLY child, of a different sibling. (All of my girl cousins but one are at least five years older, and in kid years, that’s a lifetime.) So there I was, roped in with the boys.

And there we were, all sitting together again last night. For the first time. In decades. It was a lot like being a kid again – and in the best of childhood memories.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Icebox Follies

It looked like the old refrigerator had a home. It looked like it.

My godmother waited until yesterday to say that they didn’t want it for their garage after all. Yesterday – as in two days before our new refrigerator comes. Had we known this, it could have been out of here last weekend.

The call came today that they intend to deliver the refrigerator between 8 a.m. and noon tomorrow. I was praying for a morning delivery. WHEW! Plenty of time to get ready for my cousin’s kid’s wedding, including doing something with this fright wig attached to my head.

The mother is now convinced that we’ll just have to have two refrigerators in there. Seriously? In that kitchen that’s only slightly bigger than most peoples’ closets? Uh-huh. Sure.

So it looks as if my mother’s friend who took the stove will be getting it. Turns out she had called the week after taking the stove, apologized for her boyfriend’s behavior and raved about the stove to the mother – especially since her stove was down to three burners and the oven didn’t work. So, the mother felt that in spite of it all, it had gone to a good home.

OK. So I’ll cut her some slack and maybe not just put the fridge in the alley after all. I wish she could come and get it today, but that’s a pipe dream. Instead, she won’t be coming to get it until Monday. (She was going to come tomorrow, but with the new one coming AND us trying to get to a wedding, I don’t see how that would work.)

So I’m not sure HOW we’re going to handle two refrigerators simultaneously, but I guess we’ve managed under worse conditions. Rolling it into the dining room isn’t even an option. Even the simplest of things we do can’t be simple. Ever.

But you can bet this time I’ll be sure to look at that dolly before it even touches the driveway.

And if I don’t like what I see, I’ll be happy to point them to the hose around back. You may get by with that sh*t once, but not twice.

Death and Other Tragedies

The tragic, though expected, death of Farrah Fawcett and the shocker that was the sudden demise of Michael Jackson apparently wasn’t enough for some on the Internet Thursday. They thought it would be fun to perpetuate a hoax that actor Jeff Goldblum had also died. There was also an Internet rumor that Harrison Ford was missing and presumed dead.

That is so NOT funny. There really are some whack jobs out there.

I was not a big fan of either, though Farrah definitely had her share of good roles and MJ some songs I can’t deny liking. (I actually liked to watch him dance more than I liked the music. Envious, I guess because I can't make two steps correspond.) The mother and I watched the Farrah special a few weeks ago and I have to admit, she was quite the gutsy broad. Some people criticized the show because they said it was her flaunting her ability to seek out alternative treatments, something so many other people are denied.

Well, I hate to break it to you folks, but it’s people like her, with money and fame, who are key to getting a cure for the rest of us. And you have to respect anyone who opens themselves completely up under the worst of circumstances to draw attention to such a horrible plight.
If it makes even a handful of people look differently at cancer patients, or if the results of the alternative treatments spark anything remotely resembling a cure, then she did a wonderful thing in the last days of her life.

As for Jackson, he was on the verge of a big comeback tour. Maybe it would have worked out for him. Maybe not. (It’s at this point that the mother would say perhaps he was spared a worse fate. He was after all $400 million in debt by some estimates, more money than most of us can ever comprehend having, much less owing.)

It sometimes seems that the most talented people are also among the most screwed up I don’t hold him entirely responsible for that. His childhood was stolen from him and what there was of it, he suffered cruelly at the hands of his father.

No wonder he wanted so desperately to be somebody else. I guess it’s not a coincidence that there is such an exceedingly thin line between genius and madness.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Lost Art, Found

We’ve had occasion lately to have something arrive at the house that I have long considered a lost art: thank-you cards. And they’ve come from an amazing source: teen-aged boys. Go figure.

Last year, SkaterBoy (he, the sorta son of MonkeyGirl) sent one after his graduation party. I’ll admit, at the time, I thought it was an anomaly. I mean, most young kids today barely say "thank you," much less take the time to personalize a card in ink! And especially not boys.

But then, a few weeks ago, a long-time family friend’s 17-year-old son sent one to say thanks for a birthday gift. Wow. Shocker. And on the heels of that, came another one, this one from B’s son, following the barn party for his graduation earlier this month.

The real shock: In each case, there was at least one, if not two, personalized lines. It was NOT a dashedly written “thanks” or even the extended version, “thanks for the cash.” Very impressive.

When I was growing up, I wrote these all the time. Of course, I didn’t consider it the chore that most kids, even back then, seemed to. Maybe that’s why, in the age of email and missing manners, this has come as such a pleasant and much-appreciated surprise. (Not to mention that it's always nice to get something in the mail that isn't a bill.)

I really shouldn’t be surprised though. It just confirms something I knew all along: My friends have raised some amazing kids!

A Taxing Issue

Our property tax bill came yesterday. And it came with extra paperwork. But that’s actually a good thing for a change.

Our county has switched to a four-payment system, with due dates spread out between August and January. Previously, you could make up to two payments, one due in July, the other in September. I never understood how that was supposed to help a taxpayer. But that’s because it wasn’t. It was designed to best suit the coffers of the varying tax bodies.

Under the new system, you can actually take until March to pay the whole tax bill, with a small percentage fee tacked on, of course. Even so, it you are now unemployed – or underemployed – there’s a little more breathing room between you and a tax sale. I have to think that’s a good thing. The county has seen record unemployment, so it’s all a lot of people can do to make a house payment.

I wasn't sure it had been approved as several of the taxing bodies -- the school district in particular (who lay claim to 63 percent of my tax bill) -- were grumbling about the change at it affects how and when they get their HUGE cut.

I also noticed something else with the new tax bill. The payment package included a list of deductions. Are you getting all of the deductions you’re eligible for? it asked. After looking carefully at the list, maybe not.

There’s a homestead deduction -- which we get -- because this is our primary residence, not a rental or commercial property. But there's also a senior homestead exemption for those who were age 65 by Dec. 31 last year. The mother qualifies.

What I don’t know is, since both our names are on the property, and I’m clearly nowhere near 65, if she gets anything. My thinking says she should get half, though if they’ll give her the whole thing, we’ll take it. But if I know our county government as well as I think I do, there’s probably some restriction in place to foul things up.

If I can manage it today, I’m going to call the assessor’s office and find out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Talk about validation … I did a double-take when I looked at the cover of the latest issue of This Old House. Do you see what I see? That’s right.

Beadboard cabinets!

I’m not sure about the blue (though it’s close to the trim color in our family room). And I’m definitely uncertain of the two-color cabinetry.

This issue also offers up bathroom ideas, a few of which included the “chickenwire” mosaic tile similar to what we recently bought for the bathroom.

Some of their options also feature beadboard and pedestal sinks – all of which leads me to ask a very important question.

Are they reading my blog?!

The Rules

I haven't had a lot of time to read lately. I finally got a few chapters in to Stacy Horn's The Restless Sleep (and I'm really liking it) but that's the first pleasure reading I've done in a while.

There's another book that I have to get reacquainted with though -- and soon. The Rules of the Road. Seems my driver's license expires again next month and this time, I have to take a WRITTEN EXAM. For the first time since I was 18!
Since then, the only "test" I've had to take to renew my license has been the eye exam. (And each time, that gets a little harder. But seriously, who needs to be able to read 4-point type ON THE ROAD? Unless you're a Lilliputian, seeing a road sign using that small of type just is NOT likely.) That tiny type nearly tripped me up last time, but so far I've been able to avoid having a restriction for vision on my license.

I had forgotten about this until last night when the book came out of bag along with my computer. Yikes! And it's coming up fast, too. Suffice it to say that I'll be doing some cramming in the not too distant future.

I guess I should just be grateful that I don't have to take a road test.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Disappointing End

I quit watching Jon & Kate Plus 8 a while back. I really liked the show, but Kate’s over-controlling, bossy, degrading whininess – most of which was directed at Jon – wore thin with me after a while. And this was even after cutting her a lot of slack because she has eight kids under age 9. (She reminded me too much of people I went to high school and college with and couldn’t stand.)

I had hoped that some of this persona was overdone for the camera because it created a little tension on the tooth-rottingingly sweet show. Apparently not.

I was flipping channels last night while starting my evening project: assembling a small, three-level shelf for the paint room downstairs. A shelf that had scads of nuts and bolts just to connect 10 parts! So there I was, on the livingroom floor, all the shelf pieces spread out in front of me, when I saw the TV listing … and remembered that this was the “big announcement” night for the show.

I felt guilty for tuning in – even after it was nearly half over – because I anticipated the trainwreck I’d witness. I figured they’d announce their separation – and they did.

But then, there was that little message that popped up on screen in the show’s final 10 minutes saying that yesterday, the Gosselins had in fact “sought dissolution of their 10-year marriage.” A divorce! Geez.

I feel sorry for both of them. Going through a break-up is rarely easy. Doing it with everyone in America watching is even harder. And then, having to endure while 8 tiny pairs of eyes watch it happening is just more than I can fathom.

Nor can I fathom how there’s a show after this. Kate + Eight – Jon + a bodyguard? Jon Plus Eight – Kate + Jon’s new girlfriend? Nah. It’s now lost its appeal for me. Because no matter how you do the math, the equation is going to equal eight mixed-up little kids.

That ceases to be entertainment for me.

An Odd Breakfast

When it’s already 81 degrees at 6 a.m., you know it’s going to be a viciously hot day. Even keeping the house cool has been a challenge the past several days because that same temperature also has managed to be about the low at night. I keep checking the calendar to make sure it really is still June.

As the sun starts coming up each morning, my bedroom – in the easternmost corner of the house, starts catching the sun right away. As a result, it was even warmer than normal today. So it wasn’t surprising that I didn’t immediately notice the mother standing there.

“You forgot your package yesterday,” she says.

Package? What package? I didn’t recall bagging up anything up to take to work yesterday. Usually when it’s this hot, I won’t try to take yogurt or fruit or anything. When I walked out of my room the mother met me at the corner of the livingroom.

“Here,” she says, extending a balled up Wal-Mart bag to me. “You left it here on the edge of the table and I didn’t notice it until you’d gone.”

I do frequently bag up things to take to work and set them on the table. And, I do forget these little parcels on occasion. I just didn’t remember doing this in the past day or so. Still perplexed, I start to grab it from her when the bag presses against its contents and I can see through it: ONE GLASS SHADE. Uh, mom, this is not mine.

“Well, you left it here.”

When I start getting hungry enough to crunch on glass shades, I’ll let you know. (I think of an old bit Johnny Carson did a lifetime ago, parodying that Yul Gibbons guy who used to hawk that cereal, what was the name of it? Grape Nuts. That's it! Anyway, in the skit, Carson was eating a picnic table and saying the garage door was next.)

In the bag is the spare shade we bought when we bought two new ones for the lights above the sink to match the new bathroom ceiling fixture! (I just put those up on Sunday, hence the extra was still handy.)

But it’s not crazy around here or anything ….

Monday, June 22, 2009

Historically Speaking

Historically speaking, this is quite a date for This D*mn House.

June 22, 1938 – Young Tom and my beautiful grandmother were married. The mother would join them about four and a half years later.

(This is also the same date of the famous Joe Louis/Max Schmeling rematch, a year to the day that Louis had been named World Champion. The second fight lasted just 2 minutes and four seconds.

Luckily, the grandparents’ made it quite a bit longer – nearly 40 years before my grandmother’s death in 1977.)

June 22, 1992 – The mother and I rescue a kitten from a tree. He walks in for some milk and then hangs around for most of the next 17 years. (RIP Tigger. This is our furry family member we lost in late March.)

June 22, 1997 – I wouldn’t know about it until a few months later (Sept. 13), but this is the day that Ozzie was born.

Happy birthday, little buddy! It’s hard to imagine that it’s been 12 years already.

Hope you like your new toys and we will definitely be hitting the drive-thru at DQ!

Here’s that precious face now …

And then …


Wow. I think I blinked and the weekend was over. That’s probably because it was so busy.

It’s been hotter than blue blazes the past few days and that’s supposed to continue through this week. I like it hot, but this is a little too much even for me, the child born on a 100-degree day. I was meant to be born in tropical climate but by some inexplicable twist, I ended up arriving in the Midwest. Oh, wait. That is a tropical climate. At least these days it is. But without the benefit of lush greenery and a beach view to die for.

I had hoped to tear the kitchen floor up this weekend. That didn’t happen. I’m hoping – emphasis on the hope part – that I can get that done this week and at least get the backerboard down before the new fridge arrives. My godmother says she is coming to get the old one this week, so here’s hoping.

We cleared a lot of stuff out yesterday. While it’s energy that should have gone other places, it’s something I’ve wanted the mother to do for some time, so I just went with it. It will make things better in the long run, and since there’s no way the kitchen will be done by Saturday anyway, it’s actually a benefit. Put a checkmark in the plus column.

In the meantime, I finally finished assembling the new cabinet doors! Oh, I still have old handle holes to fill and it all has to get painted, but here’s a look back at the process We’ll start with a look at the old cabinets. Here they are in all their former raised-panel glory.
Step 1; Remove door. Remove all hardware including handles and magnetic bars.
Step 2: Remove raised panel. That leaves you with a door that looks like this.

Step 3: Cut a beadboard panel to replace the removed panel.
Step 4: Position panel in door frame. Secure in place with brads.
Step 5: Cut pine trim to finish out the inside of the door, mitering each corner. Attach to inside of door over positioning brads using adhesive. This makes the inside of the door look like this. (Well, you don't want them looking all ugly inside when people open them, do you? And, it covers any sins of the router used to pop out the previous occupants.)

Finally, you’re ready to show off your newly refaced door, still in need of painting.


Oh. I forgot to mention.

Repeat steps 1-5 EIGHTEEN times. (Or, however many times it takes for your doors. It's the first time in the history of This D*mn House that I'm glad we don't have more cabinets!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

There are a lot of great guys out there who do what they do to take great care of their families. They genuinely love their kids and would do almost anything for them.

It doesn't always seem like it. We hear so much about the ones who shirk their responsibilities, who put themselves first and even some who do the unthinkable: they murder their families. Those are the ones that make the headlines and the nightly news. Not the stand-up guys, who, day in, day out, do the right thing. And they do it, not only because it IS the right thing, but because they love their families so much, they couldn't imagine doing it any other way.

Here's to you guys. The unsung heroes of today's families. I can't count my own father among this minority, but I've been lucky enough to have a handful of men in my life show me that the minority exists and that it really does take an extraordinary guy to be a dad.

Great big hugs to all of you on your special day!

Cabinet Obsessed

The next time I add a project to a project, just shoot me. It would be more merciful.

The heat today bordered on the unrealistic. I started the day by going to pick up the new kitchen sink. I bought some pieces I thought might work to trim out the inside of the cabinet doors. They didn't work and I had to take them back.

Instead, the solution was no farther than my shed. Inside, I found some pine lattice pieces that I'd bought for God knows what but never used. I used them today for the cabinets.

The sky threatened rain multiple times as I mitred the trim pieces but that's all it did -- threaten. When a final storm front went through though we finally gto a bit of a breeze AND the temperature seemed to drop by a dozen degrees, from the mid 90s to the low 80s.

I got all the trim pieces cut and tonight I got about half of them assembled. This is going to be a long drawn own project. And with less than a week before the fridge comes, there's no way I'm going to get done. It will get done, it just isn't going to happen by Saturday as I'd hoped.

Accept and move on.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pat Quinn Has Lost His Mind

And not only that, he’s lost my vote, too. So has any other state legislator who goes along with this rot. What rot? The rot at the heart of this proposed tax insanity.

Our new Illinois governor is out pounding the pavement at various institutions and state service organizations – all of whom he says will be harmed by a failure to enact an income tax hike.
I would argue that every citizen of Illinois will be harmed in some way by this exercise in frivolity, buried within this law to double or triple the current state income tax rate. Mind you, I think this is a bad time to raise the income tax rate, but I know the state's in trouble so combining that revenue with a responsible budget is something I wouldn't balk at.
But ... a whole host of NEW TAXES on SERVICES? That's right, folks. Even more money, conveniently couched within the income tax hike legislation. And we don’t even know everything this tax proposal extends to yet. Whoa, there, Pat! Not so fast. (And I thought we threw the crazy man out of office already.)

Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, made an excellent point on one of these vague inclusions that will almost certainly affect This D*mn House: “Other services to buildings and dwellings.” Rutherford aptly pointed out that there is not yet a definition for what this is meant to cover.

“Is that plumbers? Is that electricians? Could that mean new construction? Could there be an actual sales tax on the construction of new homes? How about home remodeling?" he asked.

By all means, let’s penalize people who exercise civic pride and take “the pride of home ownership” to heart!

Sen. Rutherford, PLEASE remind your colleagues that if this is the kind of thing they have in mind, that we already pay it. It’s called REAL ESTATE TAX. Every time you improve your property – and sometimes even when you don’t – the tax assessor decides your house is worth more and that you need to pay more taxes on it. And, you already pay taxes on the MATERIALS you buy to do these upgrades – it’s called a SALES TAX. To further tax residents on ANYTHING they do to maintain or upgrade a home then is double-dipping, plain and simple.

Just so you can see the lengths to which the state is planning to go, here’s a look at the complete list of services to be taxed under the proposed legislation. As you can see, several of these would directly affect homeowners:
— Warehousing and storage of household and specialty goods
— Travel-agent services
— Carpet- and upholstery-cleaning services
— Dating services
— Dry cleaning and laundry except coin-operated
— Consumer goods rental
— Health clubs, tanning parlors and reducing salons
— Linen supply
— Interior-design services
— "Other business services, including copy shops."
— Bowling centers
— Coin-operated video games and pinball machines
— Membership fees in private clubs
— "Admission to spectator sports except horse tracks"
— Admission to cultural events
— Billiard parlors
— Scenic and sightseeing transportation
— Taxi and limousine services
— Unscheduled chartered passenger air transportation
— Motion-picture theaters, except drive-in theaters
— Pet grooming
— Landscape services, including lawn care
— "Income from intrastate transportation of persons"
— Mini-storage, household-goods storage, cold storage
— Marina service (docking, storage, cleaning, repair); marine towing service, including tugboats
— Gift- and package-wrapping service
— "Other services to buildings and dwellings"
— Water softening and conditioning
— Internet service providers
— Short-term auto rental
— Information services
— Amusement-park admission and rides, circuses and fairs, including admission and rides
— Cable and other program distribution
— Rental of videotapes for home viewing

If you live in Illinois, be prepared to part with your wallet. If they can’t get you with the income tax, they are guaranteed to get you with one or more of these. Makes me wonder how far off an “air” tax can be.

“You are breathing oxygen in the state of Illinois. You must now pay xx per second of used air time…”

The Lost Evening

I was only going to take a nap …except it didn’t work out that way.

The mother was burning up the phone lines with back-to-back-to-back calls, so it was clear she wouldn’t be wanting the bathroom soon so I jumped in the shower. I was in my jammies before 8:30. I thought I would crash until around 10. I’d wake up by then. I usually don’t sleep more than 90 minutes under those circumstances anyway.

The mother woke me up at nearly 11. I took my allergy pill and went back to bed. I guess I needed it because I don’t usually sleep like that. Of course, Ozzie woke me at 3. He acted like he didn’t want to come back in the bedroom, resting comfortably on the sofa instead, so I left him there. He woke me again at 4:30, frantically sniffing at the bedroom door.

I’m extra congested today because I had the fan blowing on me all night. It was that or be too warm. The house was extra warm from baking in the sun and near 100-degree heat all day, so the A/C wasn’t enough on its own.

And we’re in for more of the same today. You know it’s going to be like Hell itself when it’s already 80 degrees at 6:15 a.m. Maybe I slept through the latter part of June and woke up in July.

It sure feels that way.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Demise of the Raised Panel

When I finally got home last night, the very first thing I saw when I got out of the car were the remaining 12 cabinet doors. They were laying on the baker’s rack in the carport, their ugly raised panels a thing of the past. Their new birch beadboard panels cut and in place, though not adhered.

God bless Lawrence. He was determined to finish them all for me. He and the mother worked on them most of yesterday. And, it had helped that I’d taken the others all down and stripped them of hardware, as well as setting out all the work materials. Yay me!

After I’d gone in and changed clothes, I came back outside and carried them all in. It’s still a little surreal even now to see them all there, each one well on its way to looking like the vision in my head. It’s almost silly how happy it makes me. The cabinets were a real sore spot in the kitchen project and now, I’m getting what I wanted. Pinch me!

Meanwhile, it’s a project that the clock is ticking down on. I was too tired last night to pick up where I’d left off with the cabinets, so no more progress there. And, I still have a floor to tear up and replace. Madre de dios!

I guess it’s going to be a REALLY busy weekend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bit O' Justice

My assistant Donna was kind enough to take me to pick up Pearl tonight. Turns out she was going to a concert just a few miles away.

It had been a crazy day. And the commute to the dealership would make it just a little crazier.

I HAD to be at the service center by 6. And even though we leave the office by 5:15 and were in her car and on the way roughly 7 minutes later. To make it more complex along the 8-mile route, there was a ballgame tonight. And then, minutes after bypassing a bunch of traffic to glide onto the interstate ... we hit the parking lot zone. With just a few miles between us and the exit, an accident brought traffic to a halt. It took nearly 20 minutes to go 2 miles!

We pulled up to the side entrance of the service center at 5:57 p.m. Turns out there were a few people ahead of me, so we had plenty of time. I claimed my paperwork while the serviceman retrieved Pearl. I glowered when I looked at the summary. It said the seal, the subject of the recall, HAD been leaking. That was all the priming I needed.

As luck would have it, the sales department was open 'til 9. I drove straight from the service bay over to sales, parking Pearl just a few feet from the space where I first laid eyes on her.

My salesman was on vacation but the sales manager, who had been there the day I bought the car and on my subsequent visit, was in. I was very calm in my delivery of my complaints, but stern. The sales manager was apologetic and repeatedly told me that I was right. (Well I knew THAT.) I laid my argument out succinctly and at one point, he was finishing my sentences.

He was appalled (and seemed sincere) when I told him that they had stranded me at my office today, with the "one-way" shuttle. That, more than the recall oversight, seemed to trigger a string of "what can I do for you" statements. "Let's make your next oil change on us."

"It already is," I reminded him. Well, let's get the one after that -- and a tire rotation. OK. I'll take it. I didn't let it continue, though I think it would have. I wasn't angling to get anything except the satisfaction of someone admitting fault and, at least promising to address the issue. And yeah, OK, having someone bend over like the most distorted of moves in Twister, to kiss my a**. I figured I was owed at least that much.

Before I left, as the sales manager and I stood talking in the showroom, I spied a couple inspecting Pearl. I stifled a snort as one of the duo suddenlyl noticed the plates and sheepishly walked away. (As someone who's done this before, it was fun to watch someone else do it.)

Sorry, folks. That one's mine.

Friday’s Coming, Right?

It’s not the best way to start the day: calling television stations. But that’s what I was doing by 6 a.m. Most people are nice enough but TV stations are notoriously noncommital if you’re trying to get them to cover something. (Unlike print who will tell you what their intentions are flat out. Something to be said for my former profession.) But TV folks are nice enough. And then you get the one person who probably just answers the phone because it’s ringing.

I’m reminded of an Elvis Costello line: “She said that she was working for the ABC News. It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use.” I think I talked to her this morning. But as long as someone gets to my event today, I don’t care. I’d have talked to Corky the Clown.

Traffic was merciful. Except for the a**hole who almost piled into the back of me, the ride back to the dealership was uneventful. I’m here now. (Dropping off for that recall work.) And lucky me. They’re going to take me to work, but I have to wait until 7:30 for someone to do it. Oh – and their “shuttle” is one-way. Isn’t that sweet? Very little about all this has been convenient for me. But that’s OK. I’ll be back tonight and the people who NEED to hear about – the ones who SOLD me the car – are going to. Oh yeah. Are they ever.

I worked until 11 last night on the cabinets as Lawrence is coming back this morning to resume panel removal. I got 10 of the remaining 12 doors off. Two had stripped screws and I was too tired to fight them. Let Lawrence have a go! I got all the hardware off the other 10 and I got them numbered and all the other work materials Lawrence should need to get going today. That should save him at least an hour or so.

Then, I got small brads around the new beadboard panels on four of the six doors we’d cut on Saturday. I hope to finish the other two and then put adhesive caulk around the perimeters of all six tonight. I guess we’ll just have to see.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Life As a Travel Agent

There are probably a million good reasons why I’m not a travel agent. The best one is probably because I don’t have the patience for it. The other, I'm just not that good at it.

I found this out on Saturday. After working with Lawrence much of the day, braving airless humidity and dodging raindrops, one of the mother’s friends pulled in the driveway while I was cleaning things up and putting stuff away. I knew she was coming, I just didn’t know she’d be there that soon.

As it turns out, it’s a good thing she came as early as she did because it took FOREVER to book flights for four people!

You see, the mother’s friend, the mother, and another of their friends are going on an adventure later this summer. They’re going to see yet another friend, out of state. The friend will be here and will fly back with them. I stupidly agreed to make flight arrangements for all of them online, knowing firsthand that the earlier you make reservations – except in very rare circumstances – the better fares are.

They had talked about driving, about taking a train, and I said, “Why not just fly?” Turns out, the rates are good, especially when you factor in flight time vs. time on the road in a car.

And so, I went online. Travelocity kicked me out a number of times. I’m not sure why. I’d get to the part where you’re selecting seats and it kept going back to square one. I got mad and went to the airlines site directly. It wouldn’t even let me on. I never did figure out what the problem was, but, ultimately, I got them all squared away.

Both the mother and her friend couldn’t believe that the process was taking so long. Nor could I. Yet nearly two hours later … I finally wrapped things up. (Yeah. I have time for this. *rolls eyes*)

Frustrated, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to crack wise.“I’m not a travel agent – but I play one online.” And apparently, not a very good one.

The mother hasn’t traveled since all the post-911 and shoebomber restrictions went into place. I keep trying to explain about the liquids and cosmetics and why it’s a good idea to just use my wheelie bags, rather than her older, albeit more stylish, wheel-free ones. And how airlines now charge $25 to check bags. And how she may want to put her purse in her carry-on before she gets on the plane as that counts as its own bag. (THAT set off a firestorm. As if I make these rules.)

Do you think she’s listening? I think not. Go ahead, TSA, give it your best shot. I can do no more with her.

From Drab to Fab

Granted, we've still got a long way to go.

The cabinets are only just getting started. The backsplash still needs to go up. And the floor? Well, I haven't begun to rip up the old one yet.
But even so, I think you can still see a marked difference between this

The old almond-colored, coils exposed electric range. And the good enough matching exhaust fan with a single light on which the plastic cover always manages to break in the first six months ...

And this ...

The sparkly new, stainless steel and the matching shiny rangehood with DOUBLE lights encased in the metal. (No stupid plastic cover to disintegrate.)

I need to call Lawrence today as it looks like maybe, just maybe, AFTER today, we're going to get a break in this otherwise ceaseless rain. And maybe, just maybe, he can finish removing the center panels from the cabinets. Of course, that means I'll have to remove more doors and hardware tonight. YIKES!

It has poured off and on for the last 24 hours. It's started to get a little ridiculous.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This Just In

In the little time I did sit still yesterday, leave it to one of my nearest and dearest crowd to send a fabulous laugh my way. CD, she who did much hauling and digging on the brick porch/walkway project last year, shared these little gems. I have to say, now she appears to be gunnin’ for my day job!

Press Release off the AP Wire
In an effort to accommodate one of Lowe's leading customers, the company announced today they would be opening a new Illinois location. Lowe's representatives were optimistic this new location would be one of the most profitable stores in the country for third quarter earnings. "Making this decision was in the best interest for us even in this downtrending economy. We are opening this location to accommodate our leading customer in Madison County. By providing a location closer to NV’s home, she will have the ability to complete projects without the commute to Edwardsville. Her countless hours of blogging have inspired millions to DIY".

In similar news......... Home Depot Cries Foul!
Home Depot has announced plans to hire a scouting Firm in an effort to locate property for a new store. A company spokesperson accused Lowe's of trying to not only steal one of their best customers, but also monopolizing her by putting a store close to her home. "NV is a valued customer at 10 Whistle Stop Drive in Edwardsville, Illinois. Lowe's blatant attempts to keep her in her hometown are unfair". At risk are Home Depot's third and fourth quarter earnings as NV is a leading contributor to their profits. Home Depot is said to be looking for property on XXXXX Road so NV would have the ability to walk to the new store. Although not confirmed, it is rumored Home Depot is courting 54th Street Grill as a parcel for their parking lot. 54th Street is NV's favorite restaurant and they feel it would be a win-win for them to partner with the company and provide her with no reason to leave home again.

And, if Shangri-La were to open a satellite location in town, who knows, I might not have a reason to venture too far from home again! (Of course, Pearl would be devastated.)

You can NEVER say that my friends aren't creative -- or great for a laugh. Thanks, CD! Sister Blanche would be proud ...

Rainy Days and Mondays

You may feel a real need to get moving today, NV. Almost everyone can prefer quiet activities, books, art, and even just sitting around to physical activity at times. By not being too active, though, your health may suffer. Fresh air, exercise, and sunshine are vital to your well-being. Today, when you feel the urge to get up and do something active, don't resist! Chances are you'll really enjoy yourself.

This is my e-mail horoscope for today. My response to this? Bite me.

Yeah. Someone did get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Of course, someone did well to get out of bed at all! I don't think there's more than two square inches on my entire body that don't hurt in some way. I pushed all weekend and I'm feeling every bit of it today.

I forgot to mention that during the installation of the range hood on Saturday, it shifted and one of the front corners crashed down directly onto my lip! It's split, a little puffy and tender, but as OK as you can expect after having 35 pounds fall directly on your lip. Thank God it didn't hit my teeth or I'd be missing a few, or at least parts of a few.

And, of course, it has to be raining today. Make that every day. Every day this week. At least it had let up long enough earlier for me to get the rest of the trash out. (Another Monday joy.)

I saw an ad for some kind of new Icy Hot wrap. Wondering if I couldn't just completely cover myself in it, mummy style.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Full Roster

To say that I wasn't up for yesterday, was an understatement.

Lawrence and I wasted no time jumping into the activity. We made a pilgrimage to Home Depot to get the birch panel the mother settled on for the cabinets (and I thought I wasn't going to have to buy beadboard), a cord for the new stove, and while we were there with Lawrence's truck, the backerboard for the kitchen floor.
The trip, loading and unloading, hooking up the stove AND the new rangehood, ate into the day. So much, so, we got only six cabinets cut. Plus, it also took some time to get set up and for Lawrence to get a feel for how removing the raised panel centers was going to work.

And it was a messy job, too.

Lawrence made a jig to match the approximate width of the inner cabinet frame. He clamped that on top of the cabinet approximately 3/8 inch into the cabinet frame, set the router depth to 1 inch and went to work.

This was repeated for each of three sides. Times six.

That's my buddy, Lawrence, hard at work. Of course, rain was inevitable. (Inevitable because the nearby Catholic church was having its annual parish picnic. EVERY year that picnic has at least one super-soaker. Many years, it is plagued by rain for the whole three days.)

I noticed a black cloud rolling in fast so I went inside to consult the Weather Channel. "There's no rain showing there," says the mother. Though the local weather radar shows we'd either be a direct hit or just get skirted as the storm moved south.

"I trust the Weather Channel more than them," quoth the mother. Well, I trust my eyes more than either one. I started carrying in my backerboard and had planned to grab the birch (almost $40 a sheet, thankuverymuch) when I finished that.

I barely got started though when I came back outside to find Lawrence frantically throwing plastic over the birch. It was beginning to pour.

We threw a trashbag over our work under the tree. Despite the 20-minute rain, more than half of which was a downpour, our work area stayed relatively dry. We were able to resume within 25 minutes and continue to knock out those panels.

The garbage man is really going to love me again this week. I still have all the debris from unwrapping the stove to put out!

We then measured and began cutting pieces from the first of the birch beadboard panels. I can't tell you the joy I felt at watching those middle panels pile up and seeing the new ones take their places!

Now, I still have to actually adhere the new panels. There's still some debate about the best way to do that. And I'm not sure about what supplies I'll need. I may or may not get to that today.

My next order of business is the yard. It's been TWO weeks since it's been cut and it's a mess. And with more rain on the way in just a few short hours, it has to get done. Lucky me.

And since rain is forecast juat about every day next week, I'm not sure when Lawrence will be able to get back to the cabinets. Yes, folks, it's another wet June. I'm not even working on an outside project this time (you might recall last year's brickwork) and Mother Nature is still managing to foul things up.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wanted: A Day Off

Well, I guess I can want one, but it doesn't appear to be coming any time soon. Lawrence will be here in a little while and the efforts will begin again in earnest.

Here's hoping I am to the challenge. I don't feel up to it at this moment. Caffeine, PLEASE take effect! And quickly.

I guess we'll start with a trip to HD to buy the proper cord for the stove, the birch panels we want to use for the cabinets, and while I have Lawrence's truck at my disposal, my backerboard for the kitchen tile. And maybe some adhesive for the kitchen.

I hope that these cabinets are going to be easier than they seem. I'm ready for a bit of easy for a change!

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Mad Should I Be?

Let’s say you bought a car just under six weeks ago. It’s used, but still under manufacturer’s warranty, plus an extended warranty you purchased from the dealer for another three years/30,000 miles. The car also was “Q” certified (for this dealer, that means an ASE-certified mechanic did a 128-point inspection on the car at trade-in.)

On two separate occasions, you’d asked about service records for the car. You were promised them on one, but they never appeared. The car is virtually immaculate – even under the hood. It purrs like a kitten. So, there doesn’t seem to be any performance issues. But you make a mental note to keep asking just the same. It's good to know what was done and when.

Then, while having a simple oil change (one of two free promised by the dealership) you ask the service tech directly if he can check the records on the GM database, something you can’t do, but a tech can. What he pulls up in a little over a minute astounds you.

“You have an open recall ticket,” he says matter of factly. “That needs to get fixed.” Excuse me?

This is exactly the situation I found myself in this morning. Apparently, this recall has been out there since FEBRUARY 2008! OK. So, WHY WASN’T THIS DONE BEFORE THE CAR WAS EVEN SOLD TO ME?

I managed to shock both the older tech who was using the computer and a young tech standing nearby by asking: “It’s that rear axle thing, isn’t it?” They gave each other a look of surprise and the older one nodded. See, I did my homework before I bought a car. I KNEW there was a recall on this model. I thought that because this was well over a year ago, and, mostly because this never came up during the sales transaction, that this either didn’t affect my car OR that it had been remedied already. Boy, was I wrong!

I didn’t panic about a recall. Most car lines have recalls at some point. In fact, the mother had to take Ladybird in during the first year she had her to get some kind of ignition fitting replaced. Neither that or too many other things -- except wear --have really plagued that car all these years later.

I was livid this morning. I’m still angry. But doing a little searching, I see that the dealership would be held harmless in any event. It’s up to the manufacturer to notify the owner, and the owner to remedy it. If you happen to be a subsequent owner, however, tough sh*t. I guess GM has bigger issues these days than following up on product defects.

My assistant looked at me quizzically when I told her this story. “They’re going to fix it, right? So what do you want them to do?” That made me ponder: How mad should I really be?

Well, yes. They are going to fix it. And, it’s not going to cost me anything. But … it’s the principle of the thing. I know. I am expecting car salesmen to be human beings. Stupid me! But d*mn. You’d think they’d want to check on those things. The manufacturer pays them for such work. Seems like it would be a good, solid business strategy to add that database search to the checklist then, doesn’t it? All you have to do is key in a VIN number. That takes what, 5 seconds?

Ninety seconds of their time or less could have saved me hours (in a return trip, trying to work into schedule, etc.), headache, and frustration. They like to tout how they check for a “clear title” on their vehicles. OK. That’s fine. But why in the hell wouldn’t you check to see if there is uncompleted recall work?! Isn’t that kind of an important thing to ignore, especially when you can just log in and look?

What if, let’s say, I never pushed the issue and didn’t already know about the recall? And, let’s say, I started having a problem with the car that ended up voiding the warranty because the recall work was never done. Then what? I’ll tell you what. I’d either be out a car or in for a very expensive repair, all on my dime. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

What it has done is send up a red flag. What else don’t I know about that I should? And how many of those 128 points did they really check? How can I trust anything these people say now? I thought I had been SO careful and smart, too. I guess not. Live and learn.

Killing Time

Watching someone else drive off in my car is something I haven’t quite reconciled with. Even when the mother pulls out of the driveway on occasion with Pearl, there is just something about watching the car drive away that seems wrong.

So I silently gulped as I watched the tech drive off with her this morning. I’m back at the dealership for her first scheduled maintenance visit (oil change) since I bought her. And as I sit in this waiting area once again, I’m grinning at the memory of the last time I sat in the very spot: a bundle of nerves, a mix of excitement and pit-of-your-stomach dread as I waited for all the paperwork to go through on the sale.

I’ll have a bit of a wait. I was the first car in the door, but the techs don’t start until 7:30, a time I’m usually already at the office by. So, I’ll be getting to work a little later than normal, too. I made really good time getting here this morning. Traffic was still on the light side. (Here’s hoping my trip downtown sees the same, though I doubt it.)

I’ll have to give myself just as much of a lead going home tonight. They’re closing the McKinley Bridge at 6 p.m. While I have other options for getting across, that bridge is my preferred method. (This D*mn House to downtown: 17 minutes.)

I’m now one of FOUR people in the waiting room. Dang! Sure hope too many more don’t show up for a while. It could get crowded in here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Mother Goes Charles Bronson

The mother called me yesterday, frantic after a trip to Home Depot, where a driver in an Escalade nearly ran her and Pearl off the road.

“He came out of nowhere and was just determined to take my lane,” the mother said. She was able to brake and swerve to avoid being sent into a ditch. It’s funny because JeanMartha over at Renovation Therapy had recently labeled Escalade drivers as an aggressive lot. I’m thinking there might be some truth to it!

But this is nothing compared to the mother’s adventure with Pearl last week.

When I got home from work Friday night, burning hot (non-A/C bus) and exhausted, the mother casually says, “I had a little experience today.” The mother tends toward the overly dramatic so it was only pure luck that I was still listening when she said: “Someone tried to jack me at the carwash.”

Jack you? What?!

The mother is the queen of change, as in coins. Always has been. Many times, she will hoard said change in a Ziploc bag, a bag she takes with her to the carwash. (I recently had to yell at her for leaving said bag exposed in the back seat of Ladybird. Good way to get a window busted out.)

Turns out, she was exiting Pearl inside a carwash bay, bag in hand, when a guy 25-30 approaches her and demands her money, all the while pushing her closer to Pearl. The mother said she hesitated for a second before dragging the bag behind her and then whirling around with it where SHE SMASHED HIM IN THE FACE WITH IT! She says she bloodied his mouth. (Think Charles Bronson with his sock of quarters in Death Wish.)

The guy fell down and the mother began screaming “Call the police!” Luckily, people exited the adjacent Laundromat and a guy who had just pulled in a few bays down all came and did just that. The would-be thief ran away. As far as we know, he was not caught.

“I really didn’t want to give him my money,” the mother said. “And I sure as hell wasn’t giving him that car.” I was a mix of horrified and amused by this. I couldn’t help but laugh at this though:

“He said he wanted my money, so I gave it to him.”

Apparently, the mother and Pearl are quite the dangerous combination. What am I going to do with those two?! In any case, the mother has promised to not go back to that carwash.

Healthy Competition

If you are doing a lot of DIY and you haven’t signed up for both Home Depot and Lowe’s Web sites, the bottom line is that you should.

Once you do that, you will start receiving regular “dollars off” coupons. Lowe’s is definitely the most generous of the two. Not only do they send their offers out more often (at least every other month, and sometimes every month) they give you more off and more options to use it. Case in point:

Last week, we received a Lowe’s offer with two cards. One gives you $10 off of $50, the other, $25 off of $250. When we get these, we always use the $10 one. And last time, we even used the $25 one because we’d bought the bathroom tile and the new microwave. We were going to buy these items anyway, so why not claim a free $35 in the process, right?

We’ll no doubt use them both again as the mother wants to buy crown molding for the hall in the basement landing and for the downstairs family room. (I’m hoping there’s going to be a molding sale soon. C’mon Lowe’s, work with me.) We also still need to buy beadboard and chair rail for my bedroom.

Yesterday, a coupon arrived from Home Depot. It offers $15 off a $125 purchase. See, not as generous as the competition. Even so, I may still use it. I’ve got backerboard, adhesive, and grout to buy for the kitchen tile and adhesive and grout for the bathroom tile and I’m not sure which of the two has the best price for what I need. It’s nice to have them competing against each other to get my DIY dollar.

Assuming that I use all three offers from both stores, that’s $50 – off things I have to buy anyway. Here’s another way the Web sites let you save: they’ll email you an offer for a percentage off an online purchase. This saved me $145 off the refrigerator! But it doesn’t always have to be a delivered item. I think I saved $12 last year by ordering bricks and mortar and picking it up in-store. Again, that was stuff I was buying anyway. It’s like getting to pick out your own merchandise to have on sale!

So do yourself a favor and sign up now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Cabinet Conundrum

Our cabinets aren’t anything special – and that’s a shame considering that we’re doing a floor to ceiling revamp of the kitchen, basically replacing everything except the countertops and the wallpaper. That forced an interesting conundrum after seeing a kitchen remake on TV that provided just the image I’ve seen in my head.

We have beadboard on the lower half of the kitchen walls (and in the bathroom, the basement family room, and very soon, in both bedrooms). I think beadboard panel cabinets are awesome and so I set out to do some research. (As you can see in this shot, I long ago put some spare beadboard into the flat-panel doors on our kitchen cart.)

Getting new, custom-size poplar doors for the cabinets (18 doors in all) all sporting a beadboard panel, would cost about $250. I didn’t think that was bad really but the mother balked.

She insisted that I talk to Lawrence about it. He opened one of the doors, ran a hand along the edge and immediately gave me a solution: “You would take a router and …” I had to stop him there. I don’t own a router. I don’t know the first thing about using one. He went on to explain the process, which sounds time-consuming and a bit tedious, whereby I could remove the raised panel currently in each of the doors and replace it with a piece of beadboard.

Then it occurred to me: “Couldn’t I use a drill bit on my RotoZip to do that?” Lawrence’s eyes immediately lit up. “Hey, I forgot you had that! You sure could. It lets you set the depth, doesn’t it?”

It surely does. Considering that I’ve used the arm attachments and disc blades almost exclusively, it’s a wonder I even thought of that option. After listening to Lawrence describe the job as one that could take some time, the mother immediately decided I shouldn’t do it.

“You’ve got enough to do,” she said. And she’s right.

Even so, I’ll be helping Lawrence when he starts the job on Saturday! Man, I sure hope it looks like what I see in my head. This could be really exciting.

Depending on how it goes, I may offer up a step-by-step guide on how it's done.

Rebates: Get Your Money!

Part of the comparison cost I factored into the appliance purchases was rebates. As a result, I have a growing stack of paperwork to deal with as both the stove and the refrigerator had rebates. (I think every major appliance manufacturer had some kind of rebate running between April and May.) That’s a collective $100 coming back, thankuverymuch!

Then, we also still need to cash in on our mammoth Behr paint purchase during last month’s sale. Cha-ching. That’s another $35.

Rebates can be a lot of work. You have to fill out the form, carefully ensuring that you’ve crossed every t and dotted every I (I’ve had rebates denied for less.) Then, you have to make sure that you have every piece of paper that they want. (A copy of the invoice, sometimes a copy of your product registration card, UPC codes.) The paperwork can really pile up. I think all the red tape is part of the gimmick.

They know we’re going to factor the rebate into the cost when we make a decision. They also know that in the chaos of daily life (and the added chaos of trying to do DIY remodeling) that many of us are going to lose sight of all that paperwork or else we’ll miss the deadline for turning it in.

But then, I guess they never banked on me. Even so, there are things you can do to ease the burden. Because every company or manufacturer isn’t as user friendly as Walgreen’s when it comes to rebates, here’s a few tips for trying to make sense of it all.

1. Keep receipts. Keep them in one place. Your pocket, your wallet, your purse. Once you get home, put all of them together in an envelope. Store the envelope, together with any forms, in a file folder. Keep that folder with your monthly bills. Make it routine to check it.
2. Grab forms. Make sure you leave the store with a rebate form. If they don’t have any, find out if they’re available online.
3. Hold that package. Until you know what you need to send, don’t throw away your packaging. I put mine inside a plastic bag until I know what I need.
4. Go online. If you can file for your rebate online, do so. It will save you a lot of time and effort, not to mention postage. Plus, most companies will allow you to track the status of your rebate or else send you an email confirming its receipt.
5. Read carefully. Every rebate is different. The expiration date is particularly important. See what it is right away, jot this down on the file folder. Either write a reminder on your wall/desk calendar to mail it in or ping yourself through your Outlook calendar.

After all, it's your money. Go get it!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let There Be Lights … And Molding

The weekend wasn’t all fun and games. I put in a full day with Lawrence on Saturday before departing for The Party Barn. (More about the Party Barn in a later post.)

We started out by putting up a new light and medallion in the kitchen. Then we moved on to putting up the egg and dart molding. I like this light, just wish it didn’t hang so low. (We just barely walk under it.) Luckily, the kitchen cart will be there so no one will dash their brains out on it!

Between going up and down the ladder and running in and out of the house and then up and down the stairs to get tools or materials, I was worn out. I have to tell you though that with each piece that went up, I got progressively more excited.

I’m going to hold off on photos of the bathroom until I get the trim up in there. The trim for the bathroom is much thinner and less ornate than the kitchen’s, but I know it will look good. But, I will share the completed ceiling/molding project for the kitchen.

Here it is!

Tuesday ToolTalk: B&D Powercaulk

I think I mentioned a while back that I had bought a new tool but hadn’t had a chance to use it yet. That changed when I started working on the bathroom and kitchen ceilings.

I’d bought the Black & Decker Powercaulk, a cordless caulk gun that operates on four AA batteries. This is something that the mother and I have talked about for ages. It was the first time I’d actually seen one that wasn’t air-powered.

I knew that with the ceiling and molding in the kitchen, it would come in handy. Add to that, the beadboard going up in both bedrooms, and some exterior caulking, and I thought I could more than justify the purchase.

The Powercaulk has two pieces: the handle that controls it and a rounded compartment where you load your tube of caulk or adhesive and lock it into the handle. It has two speeds, though I found the slower of the two to be worthless. I could, however, see potential use for doing an intricate, small bead. (Not something I needed at least this time around.)

Only one complaint: If you’re working in a tight space – like I was inside the shower – it can be difficult to maneuver. Between the length of the tube and an extended plunger if it’s full, it can, as the mother says, look “like a bazooka” and prove to be nearly as cumbersome. (She thought it was heavy. Then, she thinks everything is heavy.)

Lawrence marveled at it and he took the opportunity to use it both in the kitchen and to do a quick outside fix the mother had pointed out to him. It got his seal of approval.

It’s extremely easy to use. So far, I’ve only used it for adhesive but it has performed quite well. The battery compartment is in the base of the handle. The batteries it came with were worn out right away. I put in some Energizer rechargeables though and those lasted through the entire bathroom ceiling and even part of the kitchen. The fresh set of rechargeables I put in to finish the kitchen are still working.

Another cool feature is a thin wire attached to the side that you can use to puncture tube caulk seals. (I always find myself looking for a long nail to do this job!)

My normal frugal nature didn’t even try to find a cheaper price online. I paid $29.99 at Lowe’s but scored $10 off when my purchase totaled more than $50. (Special promotion.) Cheapest I saw it online was $24.99 at Amazon.com. So, if you’re looking for something for dad or another man in your life for Father’s Day, you might consider this.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Stove ... on My Porch

I made plans to work from home for the afternoon so that I'd be here when the stove was delivered. I bolted as soon as my last meeting of the day wrapped up, hopped in Pearl and flew home. I needn't have hurried.

I called the mother as I approached the elevator to leave. No. Nothing on the stove yet. Good. I'll be home by 1 and I'll make it. I pulled in the driveway at 12:58. The stove was sitting on the porch.

As I feared, the in-home delivery and installation was not available in our area. My biggest fear though was that the stove would be left on the sidewalk or the edge of the driveway. And we don't own a dolly. So, we at least were spared that.

I went to my neighbor's who owns all the ladders but no one was home. I was sure he'd have a dolly. There was no one I could call (at that second anyway) so, I decided to take Ladybird and go buy one. I made it to the end of the alley. There stood my savior: Stan, Stan the Lawnmower Man. (The guy who fixes my mower; not to be confused with Lawnmower Man.)

I asked if he had a dolly I could borrow. "Sure," says Stan. "I have three. What kind do you need?" He even rolled it down to my house.

This all would have worked out great, save a few minor details.

First, the stove box was covered in plastic and then wrapped in at least three more layers of cardboard. We couldn't fit inside the door without removing the plastic and all of the cardboard layers around the actual item box. Mind you, I'm glad it was packed as well as it was. Really. But it was a pain in the butt to fight all of it off.

Second, our stoop is several inches off the porch. Thank God for the brickwork which raised the porch a few more inches! Even so, putting forth a true Herculean effort, the mother and I could NOT lift the stove into the door. It finally occurred to me to take the dolly, pull it toward me, lowering it as much as I could and then roll it to the edge, ideally pushing it into the hallway. That worked.

We no sooner got back into the house -- we had to walk around to the back because the stove was now blocking the front door -- and the rain started pouring. (While it poured -- and then repeated itself an hour or so later -- we didn't get the severe weather occuring all around us. They've reported a tornado in a neighboring county.)

We then wrestled it from inside the house back into the dolly and through the house to the kitchen. Getting it in the kitchen was the third detail. But finally, it was inside. Unboxing it was another challenge. It's still not completely unboxed and still sitting in the middle of the floor.

We've now realized that the stove does NOT have a power cord. We have to buy some kind of kit apparently. Having never seen a major appliance with no cord, this is new territory for me. I guess I'll be adding this to Lawrence's next list.

He comes back Saturday. We can make it without a stove 'til then.

The mother really likes the stove. "I hope that kitchen is going to look as good as I think it's going to look," says she.

Yeah. After one of the dolly's wheels rolling over her foot, her elbowing me in the eye, and both of us getting hands and arms smashed as we passed through doorways, I just hope we live to see it!

Ghosts of Kitchen Past

The stove is gone now. When Lawrence took the old range hood down Saturday and we pulled the stove out, it revealed the remnants of various kitchen remodels. I had planned to take some pictures of it.

It was all still visible: the wallpaper that was in the kitchen when we bought the house, some of the original (I think) Congoleum tile, the material we covered the wall with a year or so after moving in … then I took a nap last night.

When I woke up mid-evening, I found this instead.

The mother had painted the wall!

“That looked too ugly to put something brand new against,” she said. And I had to laugh because she chided me because I hadn’t run the beadboard backsplash – that will now get covered up – all the way up the wall.

Um, maybe because there was a RANGE HOOD there and I couldn’t reach it! Yeah. That might be why! Sheesh.

She is mourning the loss of the old stove, particularlyAfter her friend came to get it yesterday. Let me ask you:

Would you roll a mud-encrusted dolly through someone’s home, especially if you were there to pick up a major appliance for free? And, would you casually throw a storage drawer from said appliance about 10 feet into the back of a truck?

Both these things happened and it greatly upset the mother. The first thing, the dirt, actually pissed me off. I mean, it took 10 or 15 minutes to get it vacuumed and then cleaned off one of our throw rugs where they had walked over it and ground it in.

We’re not just talking a little dirt here. You could expect to see a little dirt on a dolly, or cart or rolling luggage. I'm guilty of tracking a little when I don't check luggage or my scrapbooking cart. But no. This bordered on major excavation!There was a pile in the driveway. Another pile on the front porch. And whatever was still left by that time left at least six smaller piles spread throughout the house. I’m sorry but that’s just plain ignorant.

And then, after remarking how it looked like brand new, she just stood there while her boyfriend heaved the unblemished drawer into the back of his truck – where it clattered with the dolly. I’m not sure if it dented it or not, but it sure could have.

She’s interested in taking the refrigerator, too, if my godmother decides she doesn’t want it. I have to say, after yesterday, I’d almost rather put it in the alley.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hello, Dolly!

Rain rolled in shortly after noon, washing out my plans to mow and to cut trim for the bathroom. Instead, we’ve been packing, pitching, moving and removing things to both facilitate the removal of the old stove and accommodate the new one.

They’re on their way now to take the old stove away. The dining room table had its contents cleared, then, along with the myriad of stuff beneath it, was pushed against the wall. It is now filled with items once again. Have I mentioned that I hate living and working in a house simultaneously?

Yesterday, Lawrence and I got the egg and dart molding up in the kitchen. And … I have lots of stuff to share, including a new development on the cabinet front. I’m promising pictures soon, too.

But, right now I need to go survey the kitchen again and make sure there isn’t anything else in the way. Soon, the old stove will be singin’ “Hello, Dolly” and “Goodbye, Kitchen.”

Vampire Wars

Not the version that you find on Facebook, but this could be a new application with an interesting twist: Try to avoid being eaten alive by mosquitoes the size of Buicks.

For every mosquito that you smack on a dear friend’s face, another good bud’s bald head, or someone you don’t know’s back, you get points. You can use your points to get sprayed with Listerine (this was a new deterrent I’d not heard of, but that appeared to work at least for a while) or with Off! repellent.

You would have had to have been at last night’s barn party to fully understand this scene. One of my nearest and dearest, B., was celebrating her son’s high school graduation. (We’re all still marveling at how these kids could grow up like this, yet none of us has aged.) When the sun went down, the mosquitoes came out. And they were hungry.

Miraculously, I’ve spotted only one mosquito bite. While they were all over me, they didn’t bite my exposed skin. (Which had been religiously sprayed by B. with repellent.) Instead, they preferred to burrow amongst my hair and dine on my scalp. I have collections of tiny knots on the top and sides of my head. Which, I suppose, is why my face was puffy and beet red this morning.

It was a glorious, beautiful day. (B. has an incredible track record for ordering good weather.) In June, in St. Louis, it was cool enough that some people were wandering the grounds of the Plantation House in jackets! Did I mention it was June in St. Louis?

It was a mix of family and friends, mostly family, so I felt even more privileged to be part of it. It’s been fun over the years to get to meet, and in some cases, get very close to my friends’ families including children, spouses, siblings, and parents. I’ve talked before about the circle of friends and how those relationships make up so much of my life. The added beauty of that circle has always been the many weird and wonderful ways it has converged with each individual’s own circle.

It was funny to watch the guest of honor get progressively more restless as the evening wore on. He was a very good sport about it though, allowing us to fawn over him and patiently enduring conversation after conversation about him (in third person, while he looked on.) I remembered my own anticipation at my small post-graduation celebration with my family and how I just wanted to bolt to get to my friends.

Things haven’t changed much. Just the faces, the calendar, and the names on the diploma.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Lawrence will be here in a few minutes. A friend of the mother’s is coming to pick up some baseball tickets that another friend gave her to give to me that I can’t use. (Barn party later today.)
They’re nice seats, too. Loge box behind first base. And it’s going to be a great day for a game. At least someone can use them.

The house is totally upside down, despite my best efforts to clean stuff up last night. (The mother went out with her friends; someone is in town that she hadn’t seen in 40 years.) I was exhausted. I couldn’t have gone anywhere if I’d wanted to.

I got tied up at work and had to wait for the last bus out of town. And I still have a ton of things I need to do. But, at least I’m busy. So I’m not complaining.
It was only 60 when I got up but I just went outside to set up my saw and it’s really warming up already. Here’s to a beautiful day and to getting things DONE! I’ve got quite the Lawrence list. Hope he’s up to it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Please Vote!

What a day. What a week!

And now I'm going to ask for a favor.

Please register and vote for ViolenceUnsilenced in the 2009 BlogLuxe Awards. It's been nominated in the Most Inspiring Blogs category. This is the blog that takes on the epidemic that is domestic violence, launched by Maggie over at Okay.Fine.Dammit. a few months ago.

You can vote once a day, everyday, through July 6.

If you are a domestic violence survivor, or know someone who is, I don't think I need to tell you what a valuable resource this site is. If it gets even one person out of nightmarish relationship that could have deadly consequences (and too many of them do), it's value is inestimable.

Maggie has put a lot of time, effort, and love into this thing. Many people have bared their souls on this site. Let's tell all of them that it's been worth it.


All Grown Up

My paperwork from the bank for Pearl was in yesterday’s mail. I’ll soon be making my first car payment. (I’ve never had one before.) Funny that I can be part owner of a house -- even paying off a mortgage -- and yet I’ve never made a car payment before … I feel like such an adult!

The mother had been slowly working her way down the list of people to ask if they wanted/needed a stove. She’d already had three or four people turn her down by the time I got home from work. We still had a few more people to offer it to but were waiting for one of her friends to return a phone message. By the time she did, another friend – who had previously said no – had already called back and said she did want it after all.

The stove leaves us on Sunday! I am so relieved. And, as it turns out, this same lady also wants the range hood. Awesome! I’m going to have Lawrence take it down when he’s here on Saturday so it can leave with the stove. Disaster #1 averted.

The next disaster had already appeared. I need to see if I can find out a time range for the June 27 delivery of the new refrigerator. Turns out my cousin’s kid is getting married that afternoon! (Invitation arrived over the weekend) Wouldn’t you know it?

We also have to confirm that my godmother is indeed taking the refrigerator … and as close to the 27th as possible. While we won’t miss a short lapse in having a stove, we can’t go without a fridge for too long. And, if she’s not taking it, I think the mother’s friend will take it, too, to go with the stove. So, another potential disaster cut off at the pass!

Maybe I won't have a stove in my bedroom after all ... though it's comforting to know I'd be in really good company if I did!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Channeling Tony Soprano

It happened even faster than I thought … the stove and range hood are now in Pittsburgh – and the freight company is already planning to bring it to This D*mn House between noon and 4 on Monday.

For me, this couldn’t happen at a worse time. Work is insane and Monday is littered with activity. And, the absolute soonest I could even get home – even driving – would be after 1 p.m. So, not sure that I’d even beat the shipment home. I need to be there because if it looks damaged, I need to refuse delivery and send it back.

I know the mother could handle this, but she will freak and not want to. The other reason I need to be there is that I’m not entirely sure they will bring it in the house. Everyone has a different policy and sometimes they don’t even follow their own policies so you’re never sure. I can just imagine the phone call I’d get if the truck leaves it at the curb! (Did I mention we live on a four-lane roadway?)

Really relating to the classic Tony Soprano line: "Does everything have to be hard?"

Note to self: It will all get done. It will all look beautiful. It will all be worth it in the end.

Trouble is, that’s in the future. Right now, that mantra isn’t doing a thing to ease the migraine I feel comin’ on.

The Stove in My Bedroom

Well, there's not a stove in my bedroom ... yet. I'm thinking that by next week though, that's entirely possible.

Despite it saying 10 business days to ship and then four more to arrive locally for delivery, I got an email saying the new stove has shipped and should be in St. Louis tomorrow. That means there will be a freight company on the phone wanting to deliver it very soon.

I haven't even started tearing up the old floor yet, much less putting in the new one. I had hoped to have that done at least before appliances started arriving. Doesn't look like that's going to happen. Oh well.

It does beg the question though of just where in the hell I'm going to put the stove once it arrives. My room may be the only place left in the house with enough floorspace (and just barely enough at that) to keep it temporarily. Having to live in a house while you're working on it sucks.

We thought we had plans for both appliances. Now it appears we have plans only for the refrigerator. And the new one arrives June 27. (Which I think might be the same day as a wedding we just got invited to. Uh-oh.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sink Me!

If you’ve ever seen The Scarlet Pimpernel, you’ll invariably think of Leslie Howard (best known for his role as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind) and his overstated delivery of that line.
Or maybe it’s just me.

The mother found a sink at Home Depot a few weeks ago. It wasn’t a bad price and it was on sale. But, me being me, I thought I’d shop around including an online search. Sometimes it’s good to be me. I found the sink for $25 less than the Home Depot sale price. Free shipping, too. I patted myself on the back too soon.

The Home Depot sale ended a few days ago. I didn’t care because I had my bargain sink. Wrong!
When I clicked on the link I kept earlier today, the price had nearly DOUBLED. I was livid. One page still showed the old price but if you clicked on the item itself, this new, obscene price came up instead. I decided to look again. D*mn, that was smart!

I found the sink at DoitBest.com for $15 LESS than the other site’s ORIGINAL price. And, it can be shipped to a local affiliated store for free.

So, sink me indeed!

Storm Damage

Fierce storms kicked up yesterday afternoon, almost out of nowhere.

At work, I was sitting at my desk and happened to notice raindrops on my window. Seconds later, it became a torrential downpour and vicious winds began to slam it against the glass. Luckily, nothing at work or at home – where the storm blew through about 20 minutes later – was harmed.

The Renaissance Hotel didn’t fare as well. The 80-year-old tower, situated behind America’s Convention Center in downtown St. Louis, lost several stories of a decorative fa├žade. I captured these shots on the way home last night.

Here’s the hotel in the background of the convention center. Note the lower right hand corner of the tower, just beyond the flat roof of the convention center.

Here’s the damage close-up. It ripped that faux covering down to the studs!
Luckily, no one was hurt and about 100 guests were moved to other hotels. All across the area – for about a 50-mile radius – high winds toppled trees, tore off roofs, and downed power lines. This morning, there were still 7,000 Ameren customers without power.

The funny part is that after the storm blew off, the sun came out and stayed for several hours. You’d never have imagined anything so powerful had occurred. It started raining again last night though and continues today. We’re not on tap for any more severe weather. That’s a relief. Summer storms here can sure wreak havoc.

The one thing the storm front did was to drop temperatures. It’s been in the 90s the past few days. Today, we won’t even get out of the 60s. Tonight, we’re going down to 50. Brrrrrr.