Friday, July 31, 2009

A Whole New Game Plan

After getting nowhere fast yesterday, I scraped the walls above the tub surround. I had started doing it anyway in preparation for gluing up the subway tile panels. I finished the job. I'm going to have to put a skim coat on those walls to smooth them out before they're painted now that we're going to wallpaper them.

What wallpaper will we use? Hmmm. That's a toughie so far. There's a little wallpaper place in town that we have used a million times. Their prices are ridiculously low and while it's a small place, it's usually jam-packed with choices. Usually.

The economy has taken its toll on the business. Formerly working with 15 vendors to get wall coverings from, the small shop is now down to working with five. The mother said the shelves are practically bare, something I'm having a hard time imagining after all the years of floor-to-ceiling samples. (I stayed home yesterday for delivery of the mirror.)

We have a few more places to check, but these are the candidates so far:

(You'll have to ignore the odd bits of color that seem to be running through these. I think it might be because I didn't use a flash.) I think we're leaning toward the bottom one. It's probably the most similar to what's in there now. (Below)

Unfortunately, that pattern isn't advertising for bath type products like the one above. (A lot of soap, shampoo, medicine type ads.) Not that it has to, I just think it's better.

So, not sure what all is on tap today. For the moment, I'm planning a trip to the assessor's office to get that tax rebate form and to maybe trim out the shed. Other than that, not sure. On that note, I'm going back to bed for a few hours -- because I CAN!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Plan C and a Mirror Appears

By now, I thought I'd be wrapping up in the bathroom, putting away my tools, cleaning up the mess.

That's what I thought. Well, think again.

I cut the first piece of subway tile panel to put above the bathtub surround. For some reason, instead of cutting the next few pieces, I decided to bring it in. Thank God. I knew I was in trouble the second I put it against the wall. It was a completely different shade of white -- and it looked AWFUL!

It would have been great, but it doesn't match. And it's not like you can paint it. Well, you could but you'd be doing it over and over and over again. Nope. Not doing that. I quickly shifted to a Plan B. "Bring me a piece of the tile for the bathroom," I ask the mother. We decide that it would look OK but it would cost quite a bit, not to mention fighting with adhesive and grout and trying to not get any of it wet. Nope. Not doing that either.

"I wish I had some more wallpaper," the mother said. "We could get some more, I think." But then, the existing would look really bad next to the brand new. So, Plan C is repapering the bathroom. Can't say I'm too pleased about this because I'm not. But ...

This new plan has gotten the mother off of her "off white" phase. She's going to repaint all the trim white. And the new wallpaper? It will be white background, black print. (But this is for another post.)

In the interim, the phone rang and suddenly the missing mirror is on its way. Good thing we were home. I guess all of my phone calling last week and earlier this week finally paid off. The prodigal mirror is now safely at home!

So, the day has been filled with ups and downs. There will be at least one more up later tonight: Gone With the Wind is on.

Weather, schmether

The forecasters really piss me off. All they could talk about last night was how it was going to rain today. Well, I wasn't surprised -- I'm on vacation. Only natural that it should rain!

But, while the sun has bounced in and out of the clouds, not a drop of anything. Or even the threat of it. Now they're saying a "chance thunderstorm" this afternoon. Whatever. I've got stuff to cut and I can't listen to their dumb a**es anymore! I guess if that chance thunderstorm actually kicks up, I'll just deal with it then.

So, I'm off to my long postponed work in the bathroom!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The DIY Kitten

The kitten, whom the mother wants to call Toddy and I want to call Taz, is turning out to be something of a little DIY helper. We still don't know for sure if it's a boy or girl. I say boy. The mother says girl. See for yourself.

If I can do this, I can surely scale a ladder! Just one more big leap ...

Ah, finally at the top. But what do I do now?

This tile looks and feels great! Now, let's see what you have to do to mix up that grout. Give me a sec to read these instructions. You use so many parts water to so many parts mix. Gee. Even I get this.

I exactly equal the distance between the floor and the bottom of the kitchen cabinets! Who needs a tape measure?

OK. If I crawl on top of my sleeping quarters that means I'm tired and want to go to bed now. Get it?

A Small Rant

The lot at the bus depot was practically full this morning. That’s a sure sign that the senior citizens did a field trip today. They regularly meet at the transit district’s lot to take off on their little adventures. I'm really not opposed to these activities. Generally, I think they're great. It's just today, their sense of timing really bites it! New rule: Take the seniors bowling (or whatever) on weekends.

To make matters worse, it was raining. To make matters even worse, Weird (of the Brothers Weird, whom I now think is actually stranger than his twin, Weirder) has a driver’s license. Is this not proof that Illinois will give a license to absolutely anyone?

He was parked in an end spot and next to one of the only available spaces on the lot. Even though he had at least a foot of clearance on his driver’s side, his back passenger tire was planted firmly along the line separating it from the vacant space. It took some careful navigation on my part to squeeze between the idiot’s car and fellow bus-rider Paula’s muscliin’ lime green Mustang. But I managed it. New rule: Idiots can't have end spots.

The bus itself is like a refrigerator car. Great combination with my half-damp self. Ice may form! Let’s hope I don’t start my vacation days off with a cold! And, to add a cherry to the icing that is already the cake of this morning: Weird is at the front of the bus, regularly turning around to stare at me. Grrrrrr! New rule: The temperature of the bus cannot be more than 15 degrees below or above the outside temperature except during winter months.

The rest of the day can only get better, right?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good, Bad, Better

The good news: After tomorrow, I’m off until Tuesday! I got the vacation days that I wanted after all. It really was touch and go for a while.

The bad news: My pre-departure to-do list is frightening. A whole lot of stuff to get done and just this evening and tomorrow to deal with 90 percent of it. Ugh.

The better news: This means I can actually get something done around the house. As it stands now, working a minimum 50-hour week, I don’t have much time during the week, though I sometimes do things at night. Like last night. The mother did get the house scrubbed yesterday so I helped her put some things back and I put most of the new drains on.

I say “most” because some of them aren’t attached too well. They don’t actually fit over the elbows of the downspouts the way they should. So, I had to modify by drilling holes into the drain and the elbow and attaching with a small screw. (This after I fought for nearly an hour after trying to replace an ailing elbow on the carport side. D*mn thing. First I couldn’t get the old one off. Then I couldn’t get the new one on!)

So I ran out of daylight in properly attaching the second half of the six total drains. It’s been storming today. I sure hope the others are still in place when I get home!

I can’t let this day go by without giving a shout out to my dear friend (and poet) PB: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! Hope it's been a fantastic one.

Tuesday ToolTalk: Procaulk

As far as a long list of “As Seen on TV” products goes, I’ve had a pretty good track record. Unlike the mother, I buy these things already laced with a healthy dose of skepticism. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t.

I don’t know how many times she has said, “We need to try that,” after seeing a product hawked on TV. She’s a consumer marketer’s dream. So, it’s not surprising then that she recently used a Kohl’s gift card to buy two such products. (They were on sale, 2/$20.)

One of the two was the Procaulk. Skeptical doesn’t begin to cover my reaction.

You may recall the recent bathroom debacle with the tub surround. Well, putting in a new surround meant removing the old caulk and putting in new. This was a job done by Lawrence. I decided this might be the perfect time to put this product to the test.

Procaulk comes with a tube of caulk, which I’m sure is a fine product, but we already had caulk expressly for the tub. The kit also includes a caulk remover/scraper, an applicator, and two spreaders. (These remind me a little bit of the scrapers you buy for the Pampered Chef baking stones, but with little notches cut into the corners. Didn’t do much to reduce my skepticism.)

Admittedly, I botched my first attempt. Lawrence didn’t do much better. Then, I saw him inspecting the notches and adjusting his grip. The second bead of caulk spread evenly. “This thing works pretty good,” he said as he used it throughout the rest of the tub.

The caveat: Practice. There is a trick to it. I still haven’t completely mastered it. Lawrence’s advice: “Hold it at an angle and don’t press too hard.” I’ll get some more practice in the not too distant future as I’ll have to rip out and replace the caulk when I reglaze the tub. Lawrence says if you can ice a cake, you can do this. (Not in my skill set, surprise, surprise. Who died and left me Betty Crocker?!)

Even so, the product scores a two thumbs up from Lawrence and that’s good enough for me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ode to a Mirror, Now Missing

You can tell it's been a particularly tough day when, while on hold for the third or fourth time trying to find out about this d*mn mirror, I start writing in couplets. I guess it beats swearing, no?

Mirror, mirror for my wall
You seem to be no place at all.
The email says you’ve shipped my way.
Yet you never seem to arrive any day.

Customer service is no help.
They say that you have left the shelf.
They just put my calls on hold
And where you are, I’m never told.

Surely someone will locate you soon
So you can take your spot in the family room.
Otherwise, I’ll find something else for the space
Over the mantel above the fireplace.

Progress, In Small Doses

I was true to my word and did work religiously ALL DAY. Still, no work was done on the bathroom. D*mn! I'm hoping to remedy that with a few vacation days later this week. (Cross your fingers that I can take them off.)

I DID get the yard mowed (and it looks quite nice, thankuverymuch) and all of the assorted debris went to the dump. Before I got filthy in the yard, I cooked food for the critters (we homecook, using very little commercial food, which after last year's poison scare, I'm glad), washed Pearl, and did some laundry.

The mother got the shed painted! She'd planned to scrub down the house yesterday -- after painting the shed -- but it was not to be. As she got close to finishing the shed, a neighbor came over. Then, as she was finishing the shed and preparing to scrub the house, one of her friends came by.

She did so while I was trying to care for all of the critters. Something I had to stop doing because she wanted to look at my suitcases. (Planning for their pending trip.) One suitcase was easy -- it lives in my closet. The other, not so much. It was downstairs. In the warehouse. Somewhere.

After some effort, I found it. She decided she had luggage about the same size and would use it. I hope she's right. She said that one of her bags "is just a little bigger" than my small bag. And that small bag is the MAXIMUM size for a carry-on. That means she'd need to check it, if it is, in fact, bigger. She didn't believe she'd need to check it. Oh well. I hope she's right.

With the shed painted, that means I can FINALLY put the trim on it. So, assuming I get the days off that I asked for, I'll be trimming out the shed AND working on my bathroom.

Now if I could just get her to paint those d*mn kitchen cabinets ...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

On the Sixth Day

She rested. She didn't even blog.

She slept. A lot. And the she shopped. Some. These were not her original plans. There was no progress on the bathroom. Or anywhere else.

She was easily swayed by the mother.

So, on the seventh day, she is prepared to work her a** off.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Honors, Props and Insanity

The title of this post pretty much sums up my day. The honors are courtesy of Ty’smommy at The Seventh Level of Boredom. She has declared This D*mn House “One Lovely Blog,” passing on an honor she received and saying some awfully nice things about me and the blog in the bargain. THANKS!

I will, in turn, be putting up a badge and passing the honor along very soon.

Vicki over at NotSoSAHM sent some props my way – thanks! – and even posted pictures of the hotel room where her family is holed up for another week. (Photos courtesy of 2-year-old Ashlyn. I’d say she’s got a budding photographer on her hands!)

And the insanity? That was courtesy of the mother. I was just finishing my lunch when my cell phone started ringing. Odd, but not unheard of. I thought maybe it was one of my friends, perhaps PB. But no.

It was the mother. I barely got “hello” out.

“WHERE ARE YOU?!” she bellowed. The emotion in her voice was palpable. I was confused. “I’m at work. Where else would I be?” For a second, I thought maybe she had thought I was only working a half-day or something.

“Why are you at work? It’s Saturday!”

I almost didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was Friday. Once I did tell her, she asked me if I was sure. “Well, if it’s not, there’s a whole hell of a lot of people in the office today who are confused.”

I think the lack of sleep, the overwhelming amount of house activity, and all of the chaos of our little zoo is taking its toll.

Toothpicks and Cuteness

They wouldn't seem to go together -- unless there's a baby in the house. Not to mention a baby with an extremely jealous sibling!

We had our first night with everyone sleeping on the same floor. The trouble is no one was sleeping. (The baby cat got bathed and deflea-ed so no longer relegated to laundry room. Still segregated, however, in carrier, 'til he can get checked out.)

Let's just say that Toby is not amused. He stares at the carrier. He occasionally hisses and growls. And when we have the baby out in the kitchen -- with the doorway blocked by boxes and buckets -- his head keeps appearing over the top as if he has a spring in his butt! This is going to be a long and painful transition I fear.

The toothpicks are for me. To keep my eyes open. The cuteness ... well, this should clear that up.

He, we're relatively certain it's a he, seems to be growing in front of our eyes. He's eatin' like a little pig! We're going to try some kitten chow this weekend, watered down with the substitute milk.

And the poor thing. I guess during his pre-rescue, he had cried so loud, so long and for so much that he's now hoarse! He sounds a lot like Froggy from The Little Rascals when he mews or cries these days.

Some of the most fun though has been watching him play with toys. He is thoroughly fascinated by them. And just in the past few days he has gotten sure enough of his own footing to pounce on things. It's hilarious.

Sometimes he doesn't quite keep his balance and goes toppling over with the toy.

His favorite so far is this ball and another gold one. Both have bells inside. He loves to jettison them into something and then chase them on the bounce.

Last night, he discovered mice for the first time.

And this poor thing ... this is the mouse that is nearly as big as him that we stuck in the carrier with him on the very first night so he'd have a "companion." Looks like it has been a good surrogate sibling, no? Fierce little predator!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ask Me in a Year

That's what I said at this time last year. It was a year ago today that the first six panels of the new vinyl fencing went up.

While it has taken some time to adjust to having privacy height (from less than 4 feet fencing), I think it's been a positive change all the way around. No caulking. No painting. No replacing boards. No hammering in errant nails.

Throw a hose against it and you're done. Even with all the storms we've had in the past year, all the fencepost tops remain in place

Admittedly, I prefer the look of wood but I have to say that I think the bright white vinyl looks nice, too. And the fact that it is SO easy to care for ... it's a more than even trade!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Light on the Visuals

(Note: This post was SUPPOSED TO have auto-posted last night. It did not. D*mn Blogger anyhow!)

Vicki over at NotSoSAHM has asked for photos of the “progress” around here lately. To be honest, there’s not a lot to see. I wish that I could say there was.

Door-free cabinets and a cementboard flooring aren’t all that exciting. And our new tub surround isn’t exactly earth-shattering either. Especially not with the peeling 18 inches of wall above it (soon to be covered by the subway tile panel). So, I’ll apologize for holding out on the visuals, but the truth is, there’s not really a lot to see. Things are getting done, albeit very, very slowly.

I did take some before shots of the old surround and fixtures, so I’ll work on getting photos of the new ones up. That’s about the best that I can do.

Vicki is the one who should be putting up photos. I still can’t figure out how she has lived for weeks, that’s WEEKS people, in a hotel room with two cats and two kids – one of whom is the vivacious 2-year-old Ashlyn. She and her family are waiting for their home to be available as hubby settles into his new job in D.C. That day is drawing near and I’m anxious for her!

Besides, my kitchen shots would pale in comparison to the status of the kitchen renos going on over at Liz and Joey’s of A Constructed Life or at the Stucco House. And I don’t have anything nearly as dramatic to share as all the demo over at Dawn’s Bungalowcious either.

But stay tuned. As the mother and I so often console one another with, “It’s gettin’ there.”

A Popular Day

You’d think that I might have chosen a less crowded day to be born.

Apparently, I was born on the already established birthdays of actors Danny Glover and Willem Dafoe, rocker Don Henley, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, and designer Oscar de la Renta. It was a day that had already been staked out, too, by one of the most famous – and tragic – mothers in America: Rose Kennedy.

And, it’s the Feast Day of St, Mary Magdalen. (Yeah, the nuns had a field day with that one in grade school. See, before the Church and a number of other clerics tried to set the record straight, she was supposedly the prostitute who’d washed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. Today, there’s even a variety of theories that she may actually have been his wife and that she wrote books that were conveniently omitted from the Bible. Take that, Sr, Celine!)

If there’s still room on the calendar, you could note that it’s also the birthday of politician Bob Dole and of Bonnie Langford whom I’ve only just learned portrayed Mel, sidekick to Dr. Who (numbers six and seven), the campy, time-traveling British sci-fi hit that I used to catch on PBS. (I’ve not watched the newer series.)

Born on the same day AND in the same year as I was were actor Patrick Laborteaux (Andy Garvey on Little House on the Prairie) and WWE wrestler Shawn Micheals. Also, Mr. M., a principal whom I used to run into a lot during my reporter days, had a son born today. Found this out several years back when I was getting a copy of my birth certificate from City Hall. Mr. M. was behind me in line. "Did you just say July 22?" I nodded.

"My son was born that day, too!" he exclaimed. "When I went to see him, I probably saw you, too." (Apparently, Baby M and I were nursery mates though I arrived for lunch and he didn't show up 'til dinner.)

Comedian/actor David Spade was born the same day a year earlier. And let's not forget Rick Davies, keyboardist and sometime vocalist from Supertramp. (He actually sang their hit "Goodbye Stranger.") He's officially old enough to retire today.

It's also a good day for cities to be born: Albany, N.Y. was chartered on this date in 1686; Cleveland was founded in 1796.

So, if you can make it through all those celebrations, stop by. I'll save a piece of pie for you. (Key lime)
(Update: I've only just learned that today is also author Tom Robbins' birthday! How bleepin' cool is that?! How can I have lived this long and not known that? Cool. *grins broadly*)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

May I Keep This Elephant?

My grandmother used to always say that she hoped that there were no stray elephants in the neighborhood – the mother would surely bring them home. I've inherited that gene to some degree.

But the mother is like the Pied Piper and Dr. Doolittle wrapped into a single body. She’s always had an overly-sensitive soft-spot for creatures of all varieties and at no time has our home ever been void of them whether they be dogs, cats, birds, mice, turtles or rabbits. She has restored to health or comforted in death more animals than most people will ever SEE.

We took Toby in just over three years ago with the express intent of finding him a forever home, and we did – ours! And now it would seem that the Kitten Fairy (a term I’m borrowing from JeanMartha at Renovation Therapy) has shown up once again to bang me in the head with her wand.

One of my neighbors first heard and then saw a kitten that had crawled into the exhaust matrix under his truck on Friday morning. Did we want it? The mother gave an emphatic no. I got this story – and a glimpse of said kitten – when I got home from work that evening. It had taken up camp between the neighbor’s garage and a pile of junk that runs the length of the garage. You couldn’t get in there to it without chasing it out one end or the other or else removing a whole stack of junk.

On Saturday, I periodically heard its anguished screaming. The mother had tried to approach it but it ran away. It repeated this performance for me. Late Saturday night, I left a bit of tuna at one end of the junk maze. It was gone on Sunday morning and the anguished cries continued. They were loud, continuous, and gut-wrenching.

At dusk Sunday, the cries got really loud. I went to see where the little critter had holed up but as I drew closer, the cries would cease. I had to stand in place until they started again. I thought the kitten had gone under the neighbor’s van. There I was, on all fours peering under the van, when I looked up to see the kitten, camouflaged by the wheel well, perched atop a rear tire. Oh. My. God. This thing was TINY!

I continued to speak softly to it. I mewed at it. While it answered me back, I could see that it was moving to make good its escape. In a single move, I brought myself up from the ground and swiped it off the tire with my right hand. Just as promptly, it sank its tiny, razor-sharp teeth into the index finger of my left hand. It did this again, only this time, clenching my finger even tighter both top and bottom. OUCH!

Thankfully, the second I set it on the deck, it released my finger. I summoned the mother who retrieved our carrier where I put it inside. We took the carrier down into the laundry room so as not to jeopardize – or antagonize – either the kitten or our fur fiends. We gave it some water – which it clumsily lapped while also walking in a shallow dish – and a little boiled chicken smashed up. It gulped hungrily and then began to crawl on me immediately seeking equipment where it would be on its mother. This baby is not even fully weaned!

For the rest of the evening, things got progressively more cordial. Each time I would go to remove it from the cage, it would hiss. Something that cracked me up because for all its yowling, its hiss was barely more than a breath. Too funny! Just hissing. No more biting.

By yesterday, the hissing had stopped. And after the mother spent the day with it yesterday, it’s hard to say whether it will go anywhere or not. (We already know that one shelter is full. The other one – which is not a no-kill shelter – I’ve yet to check.)

Last night, I got a bottle and some bitch’s milk and the baby ate ferociously, chewing half the nipple off of the tiny bottle. Yikes! So for right now, it will be a combo of bottle and soft food. Maybe by the weekend we’ll try some milked over kitten chow. (I’m guessing this tiny blob of gray fur is between 5 and 6 weeks old, based on blue/gray eyes, teeth and motor skills.)

And for right now he/she (hard to tell right now) is ours. Seriously, could YOU ignore this?

The Rules

When you go to kindergarten, you are already well on your way – or should be anyhow – to learning the ground rules for dealing with others in everyday life. While the circumstances change, most of these rules stay the same in your neighborhood, at school, or in the workplace.

Don’t mess with other people’s stuff. Share. Take turns. All these things are pretty basic for most of us. Most of us.

So, for those of you who didn’t get that benefit at age 5 (ie. some of my neighbors), or maybe just forgot, here’s a refresher.

1. If you mess it up, clean it up. After the mother and I were outside until dark Sunday clearing debris from my weed-eating mess, Lawnmower man threw grass all over the sidewalk and into our driveway. I cleaned up another half a bag of stuff before taking my own mess from Sunday to the dump. Grrrr.
2. Be kind to others. Several people watched as the mailman fell, skinned himself up, and then went on down the street. Only the mother asked if he was O.K. She got him a damp rag and a Band-Aid. Double grrrr.
3. Don’t dump your responsibilities. Animals are creatures of God, too. (Check your Bible – we were given “dominion” over them. With power, comes responsibility.) It’s probably one of the latest litter from the cats that live down the alley, that their alleged owners do not care for. They freely roam the neighborhood, jumping on cars, killing wildlife and terrorizing other people’s pets. A kitten had been roaming the neighborhood since at least Friday, screaming its little guts out. Poor little thing turned out to be VERY little indeed –and difficult to catch. (But that’s a story for another post.) TRIPLE grrrr.

These are just a few, but they’re front and center because I’ve had to deal with them in the past 24 hours. Now departing soapbox…

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Very Old Andy

Even before I got active with Where's George, I've always been a little fascinated by currency.

I think our money today looks more like Monopoly money than ever before. If it were smaller it would be even more so.

But, as a "Georger," I pay attention to things like series dates. So, imagine my surprise when this baby popped out of the ATM last week.

You may want to click on the photo to notice that that is a 1934 series. I've since been corrected in my belief that the bill was issued in 1934. It was probably actually printed in the early 1950s. Even so, to get a St. Louis Reserve bill -- from an ATM in St. Louis -- in 2009, is pretty impressive. Or at least I thought it was.

I have been loathe to spend it. And because it is kind of crinkly and marked on, I don't think it will be sought after by collectors but I guess that might be a road worth pursuing.

It Has to be Monday

It was all I could do to get out of bed this morning. There doesn’t seem to be more than a few contiguous square inches of me that don’t hurt. Luckily, I only had one medium-heavy bag of trash to contend with (having taken everything else out to the alley last night) or I might be lying in the driveway with it!

I did get some sleep Saturday night but was up by 8:30 on Sunday, creating or otherwise actively ticking items off of a healthy to-do list.

By 9, I was making a hardware store list. By 10, I was dressed and at 10:30, I was walking around the kitchen, adding screws to the backerboard in areas it didn’t appear to be secured down. I also determined “middle” and laid a few tiles on the floor to get an idea of how I might work. An hour later, I was on the road. I started with a stop to get household items (a bag of which is either still in the trunk of Ladybird or else was left at Wal-Mart.) Then it was on to Home Depot.

They wouldn’t cut the piece of subway tile panel for the bathroom because “it’s not wood.” Fine. I’m used to being a parking lot spectacle and yesterday was no exception. Once outside, I laid the full sheet in the parking spot next to Ladybird, pattern side up. Then I folded it as close to half as I could and pushed on it until it broke. There were a few onlookers as I stuffed the resulting two pieces into the trunk.

I also bought flooring adhesive and grout. The mother was not pleased with the selection for the kitchen. Fine. She has to go back with me to return AND get the color she wants. I’m not going through this a third time.

I had to mow but the weeds along the drive, sidewalk and walkway were out of control. As much as I hated todo it, I busted out the new Weed Eater that I’d bought last year but never used. It worked unbelievably well and I’d managed to do most of the front in little more than an hour. My arms were already sore. Hanging onto that Weed Eater for that long didn’t help.

And then sweeping up the mess and hauling everything around … yeah, I’m paying the price today. With interest. At credit card company rates.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Sample

I mentioned getting a sample of vinyl beadboard. I also mentioned that the mother didn't like it. To clarify, she liked it -- just not for the bathroom! So, I'm back to square one, literally, which is a panel of subway-like tile.

I'll go get that today.

I got the sample from Vintage Woodworks. Turns out I've done business with them before. We bought gingerbread and fretwork from them before.

It also turns out that I've done business with the manufacturing company, Azek. They made the majority of the boards that I used to pimp my shed. Good to know that there is a product out there like this if I need it. I had a good experience with both the vendor and with the product manufacturer. So, if you're looking for a product like this, you know where to find it!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And the House Didn’t Blow Up!

Lawrence was right on time today like always. I beat him to This D*mn House by about 20 minutes, so things were looking good!

He did a mish-mosh of things today – including repair the new hot water control on the tub. He also routed the bathroom cabinet doors and put beadboard in those. I FINALLY got all five layers of the kitchen floor up, so today I had him help me put the new backerboard down.

In the middle of that job, we smelled gas. The gas line behind the stove does smell occasionally and Lawrence thought maybe there was a leak in the basement end of the pipe. But today, it was stronger than it’s ever been. When we got down there, we found that the pipes were inside the ceiling – which is finished on the family room side. Oh God. Not MORE tearing out of ceiling!

Luckily, Lawrence came up with a quicker, easier fix. He shut off the gas and rerouted the pipe to the water heater, effectively abandoning the unused stove pipe. He turned the gas back on and the house didn’t blow up. Whew. Another massive sigh of relief today!

I kept him about an hour or so longer than I’d intended and he seemed OK with it. He was genuinely concerned about that pipe, so I appreciated him finding a way to get it done.

All in all it was a pretty good day. I’m exhausted now though … and STARVING!

So, Do I Get to Drive?

The day started early – before 7. I set up things for Lawrence just in case things got ugly at the DMV.

The DMV was a hap’nin place this morning. They were only open until noon and by the time I got there – 20 minutes into their day – there had already been a dozen people signed up and out. There were two people ahead of me and about six more walked in while I was waiting!

Despite the crowd, things went rather quickly. I got the test (20 multiple guess and a separate page of traffic signs to identify). I was very confident about the signs, but the multiple guess … there were a few I agonized over. (Only because I noticed the occasional question would trip me up in the Rules of the Road book.) And some of the questions? Bullsh*t. Why do I need to know whether a 17-year-old driving after curfew without a parent or guardian jeopardizes their license? Why?! How exactly does that demonstrate my driving ability? Whatever.

I had to sit and wait and watched a kid who looked barely old enough to drive grade my test. He banged the pen on the sheet as he went down the first page without taking the lid off. That seemed like a good sign.

Then he got to the next page and I got distracted by a particularly good-looking dude renewing his plates. So, I looked up in just enough time to watch the kiddo scrawling furiously across my exam. Oh sh*t. I’ve waited this many years to get an awesome car – and I won’t be able to drive. My heart sank.


I cautiously approached the counter. “You didn’t miss any, so you passed.”

Whew. We're good to go, Pearl. At least until 2013 ...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kitchen Envy?

I’ve probably got a bit of leftover melancholy and crabby from yesterday, but a Tweet that led me to this HomeSavvi’s report on some “design excellence” winners for kitchen remodels got me going over lunch today. It started with this: a category recognizing winners for redesigns of more than $175,000. Excuse me?

(My theory: If you need to do more than $175,000 worth of reno to a single room, just buy another house!) They also had winners for $125,000 and up, and under $75,000.

I happen to be in the middle of a 90 percent DIY kitchen remodel, so maybe it’s just some kind of unconscious envy. I don’t know. Go ahead and tell me to sit my country a** down. But, really, if you can’t design something 10 steps above SPECTACULAR with that kind of money … who couldn’t if money was no object?

Not that these kitchens aren’t nice. I’m sure they’re quite nice. I won’t begin to debate that. But show me someone who can maximize $10,000 (or less) in a less-than-huge kitchen and make a truly visible difference –now that would impress me. (What can I say? I'm easily amused.)

I guess it comes down to the fact that I really am cheap at heart. I don’t like things to look cheap, mind you. I just like to get the best stuff I can at the cheapest price! Not paying labor on a lot of these projects (except for some occasional intervention from Lawrence) definitely helps and even at his rates, it’s not that much. The bottom line is that the less equals more, as in the less I spend, the more I can do.

Even if I had the money though, I’m thinking there’s a whole lot better ways to spend $175,000 + than on a single room.


My driver’s license expires on Wednesday. I knew I needed to go and renew it but things have been so hectic, I just kind of forgot about it. And I have to take a written test. It’s not like I can just bounce in and bounce out.

So, whatever else is on deck for tomorrow, it will have to adjust accordingly. I have to find out the DMV hours and go get that done. I think Lawrence will be taking the panels out of the bathroom cabinet to put in beadboard (yes, I’ve created a monster; the mother asked for this specifically) so I guess I can get him set up doing that and then go get my license.

He also needs to check out the bathtub fixture. Somehow, “hot” with the new handle in place isn’t all that hot. It’s very warm, but if you’re looking for a hot shower, you’re not going to find it in our bath! Need to see what he can do about that.

Tonight, I think I’m going to tackle the rest of the kitchen floor. The mother wants me to have Lawrence put the backerboard down and help me determine my tiling plan. Sounds like a solid idea.That would be light years ahead of where I am now. I just know I don’t want to keep him beyond five hours or so tomorrow.

After last Saturday, I’m lucky he’s coming back at all!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Delivered, Delivered, Delivered!

The rugs came. My tile cutter came – and so did the sample of vinyl beadboard that I ordered. Man! This D*mn House is keeping the delivery businesses busy. And that’s a good thing; one of them helps keep bread on the table and the lights on!

(The mother is already not happy with the beadboard; I’ve not seen it, so I’m reserving judgment.)

I’m in an exceptionally crappy mood. I’m hoping that the storm that looks like it could roll in will just blow over because I want to get Pearl out on the open road. A cranked stereo and zipping along with Pearl should be just the antidote. (That, and a small dose of retail therapy. I have to go to the store and pick up allergy drugs tonight anyway so it’s not a special trip.)

I’m just thinking I might drive a little farther than I’d planned as that would let me put Pearl’s pedal down a little bit. That’s exhilaration I could really use right now.

Delivery, Delivery, Delivery!

With the kitchen floor looming and Mother Nature being the pain she can be, I broke down and bought a tile cutter. I still may use my RotoZip for some of the job, but this way, even if it is pouring down rain, I can still cut tiles.

That is arriving today.

The rugs I bought earlier this week are also on the way. The small throws should arrive today or tomorrow while the larger area one is coming straight from the manufacturer so it won’t be here for a few weeks.

Yesterday, I got a birthday card with an early birthday present: a Staples gift card. It is now the third such card in my possession. The other two are from Christmases past. All are from the same well-meaning family friend. She figured I could use them to buy ink or photo paper for my printer. And I could.

There’s just one small problem: There isn’t a Staples store within 75 miles of This D*mn House – and you can’t use Staples gift cards online. Easy button my a**.

I found this out three or so years ago. I was lucky that time because a very nice customer service person took down my information, had me Xerox the giftcard and mail it in. A week later, the card was replaced with an online voucher which I promptly used. The next year, when I got another one of these potential windshield scrapers for Christmas, the company would not do this. “It shouldn’t have been done before,” I was told by an alleged manager. I was told this again and again and again. I gave up.

I guess when I tried to subletly tell this friend not to get any more of them, I was too subtle. I got a second one last year for Christmas. When this arrived in the mail, I wanted to go and bang my head on the wall. I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but the mother did. I felt bad and so did my friend. She was sure there was a store out by her. That would have been good news. That would have put one within 40-50 miles of me.

But alas, no. Let the head-banging commence. Apparently though I’m not alone in my frustrations. As I was checking to see if they have in fact built a store locally in the past year or so, this site came up.

It made me laugh. You’d think in this age of the Internet where we do just about everything online that companies would be smarter than this. I guess not.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hanging Up on Phone Scams

It seems that every week, we get at least one call at This D*mn House from a robot. And it’s really beginning to piss me off.

For a while, it was the car warranty people. They rang the phone off the hook day and night with their stupid taped messages. Just once I would have loved to have gotten a live person so I could tell them: "Sure. Go ahead and warranty a 20-year-old car." (Which was all that we owned until recently.)

Eventually, they started calling my cell phone, too! (I reported them to the FTC. I also made sure my cell was on the Do Not Call list and exactly 30 days to the day I registered it, those calls ceased.)

Then, it was one claiming to offer government grants to go back to school. Last night’s taped message was a new one though.

“We have an important message about your mortgage. President Obama …”

I hung up. I have an important message of my own for them: I don’t have a mortgage! And, if they were a legitimate outfit seeking my business for something that wasn’t a scam, they’d know that.
A day before, the mother offhandedly asked me if I switched our phone service. Huh?

“There’s a message in on the answering machine saying you need to call them.” I listened. It was yet another robocall.

This one came from some outfit called CoolTell America thanking me for registering for their voice-over IP service. Here’s a note to you guys: I didn’t register for this, and I’m not calling you, but I am sending all the information you were kind enough to leave on my phone to the FTC. You see, we’re on the DO NOT CALL list. Have been for years.

You might recall we also had a bit of “cramming” a while back whereby another set of scam artists put fake charges on our bill. I’m just now getting that settled.

So, it would seem that the number of phone scams is endless. I found this list accidentally while looking up the latest scammers. That list explained another set of weird phone calls several weeks ago that the mother kept asking me about. (Apparently, someone was calling me saying I was paying too much interest on my credit card.)

Beware the next time you answer the phone …

After the All Stars

I awoke ahead of the alarm to a driving rain. It beat against the roof and windows like a crazy person trying to get in. I’m glad it wasn’t like this yesterday. While it was cloudy almost all day and rain was all the time threatened, none fell.

I watched almost all of the All Star Game last night. I made it home with dinner in just enough to catch the pre-game ceremonies. I think they did a really great job.

It’s fun to watch somewhere I see every day on television -- I even glimpsed a few familiar faces in the crowd!. And I have to say, St. Louis does cut quite the impressive picture. I’m just glad I wasn’t down there in the middle of all the bedlam both before and after. I think the All Stars definitely showed St. Louis as a great place to have an event.

Of course all of the people who had parked on Broadway (some local, several out-of-state) who emerged to find a parking ticket on their windshield are probably going to have a bad taste in their mouth about the city this morning. I can’t blame them. I passed the metermaid who was writing them as I walked to the train last night.

I made it on the first train I tried for, but just barely. I squeaked inside an end door at the last second. That train was really jammed. (Think sardine.) By the time it got through the first few stops though, it had emptied out quite a bit. It was no fuller than it had been yesterday morning.
I’m glad I grabbed my rain jacket at the last minute today.

This bus is freeeeezing. (It is muggy out, thanks to the rain, but it’s only 70. NOT 90 as you’d surely think it must be if you felt the temperature on here. Not to mention that I’m a little soaked.) You could safely store meat on this thing.

I contemplated driving to the depot today but opted against it. Just didn’t feel like driving in this gunk. Besides, I think Ladybird had enough of an adventure yesterday to last her for the week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Everybody Loves a Parade

The next westbound train will be leaving in 30 seconds …

That was the announcement that greeted me as I hit the platform at the metro train station this morning. I almost couldn’t have timed it better.

I drove to the station this morning to avoid the madness that will be downtown traffic during an All Star Game. Oh. And with a presidential visit thrown in – during rush hour! (Obama is throwing out the first pitch.) If I waited on my regular bus, I’m betting I wouldn’t get home before 7 – if then.

While I could have driven to a station closer to home, I drove to one closer to food. See, I haven’t had a real decent meal in way more than a week. I’m sick of frozen. I’m disgusted with fast food. I want some SERIOUS take-out! So I’m heading to Lotawata Creek. The mother didn’t want to meet me at the train station and go to dinner. So, I just drove there and road the train in. (20-minute drive plus a 20-minute train ride. That means it didn’t save me too much time off my bus commute (around 5 minutes) though I left home 20 minutes earlier than normal. Can’t wait to get me some Chicken Atlanta!

I wasn’t alone in my planning. The train was jammed. I found a seat and had it most of the way. As we got close to downtown, an old black lady got on. For nearly two stops, I watched her set her butt into the door to try and not fall. Meanwhile, the two WASPs sitting across from me, stared right at her. They did nothing, so I gave her my seat. I guess their mothers didn’t raise them as well as the mother raised me. (Can you believe even after I addressed this lady directly, someone else was trying to take my seat?! So I sat back down ‘til I got her attention.)

She didn’t say thanks. Oh well.

From my office window, I watched people line up for hours to watch the All Star parade. This is what would occasionally distract me. Notice the “red carpet” lining the streets. Pretty cool! I never could tell who was in any of the trucks as they passed, but considering that I was several blocks away and 19 stories up, these aren’t half bad.

This was the view from my window.

Another view ...

If I looked in the opposite direction, I saw this: the staging area for all of the MLB trucks that were taking the parade participants down Market Street.

This is the view after the parade had already been going on for a while. That's a whole lotta pick-ups! It was fun watching them turn because they were then going the wrong way down a one-way street. (Legally. It was closed for the parade.)

And for the past four days, both a blimp and a small plane have been circling downtown. I haven't seen the blimp but i've seen the plane more times than I can count.

Finally, I got to snap a pic of it as it flew past the Arch.

Tuesday ToolTalk: Kobalt Utility Knives

I walked past them regularly for nearly two weeks. Then, I actually had them in a cart with a few other items the day we ordered the tub surround and the huge trim for downstairs at Lowe's. When Lowe's made me mad by not honoring their own discount, I said the hell with it and emptied my cart.

But a week later, I was back and this set of three Kobalt utility knives with a huge 100-pack of blades came home with me. I'm awfully glad they did.

I'm still just using the first one, but it's really nice to know that I have two others laying around if I need them. I'm sure I'll be changing the first blade very soon and that should be easy as the blade housing opens at the mere touch of a button and the razor pack is designed to keep you from getting cut.

They're sturdy, without feeling too heavy, and they have a nice rubber grip to really help you hold steady for even the toughest jobs. (Something my old Stanley model lacks.)

Here's a short list of things I've used the first knife for thus far:
*Scoring a sheet of backerboard (and there's a lot more of that in my future)
*Cutting those annoying plastic ties that just about everything I buy seems to have these days
*Cutting open boxes

*Cutting the plastic that we had wrapped around the tub surround during its brief stay in the carport
*Cutting loose tile remnants as I pull up layers of the kitchen floor

So far, so good. But be CAREFUL. These bad boys are SHARP!

The long and short of it: You get three knives and 100 replacement blades for $12.98 at Lowe's.
The conclusion: Worth every penny.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's a Baseball Town

Downtown St. Louis is a mad mix of baseball fans from all around the country, and probably, all around the world.

And all eyes will fall upon this part of the world for the next 36 hours. The Home Run Derby is tonight. And tomorrow ...

It's the All Star game! And this banner is ginormous (covering about four stories). What's fun is that there's the expected sea of red shirts, but there's also a mix of all other teams, too. And not just the Cubs or White Sox as you might expect.

I took a very brief walk earlier and in that short trip, I saw T-shirts representing Milwaukee, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York (Yankees), San Diego, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. (In addition to St. Louis and both Chicago teams.)

It's no wonder though. Kiener Plaza, which is one of my favorite places on the planet is all decked out with gigantic arches. People are all over the place underneath them getting their photos taken.

But in this shot, I managed to get at least a portion of the real deal ... (look closely at the shape reflected in the metallic glare of the windows.)

It was so bright out, I didn't notice when I shot it. What a cool surprise! Here's a closer look at one of the mini versions. And while Busch Stadium is empty in this shot, you can bet it won't be tonight or tomorrow night!
No doubt about it ... It's definitely a baseball town.

A Rug Rap

Not sure what made me think I could rap (perhaps sleep deprivation) but this formed in my head based on some current events at This D*mn House. FYI: The code is for real and does indeed expire TODAY.

Need some new rugs for the livin’room floor.
Current ones hardly got nap anymore.

Ozzie and Toby have seen to that,
Treatin’ ‘em all like a personal flying car-pet.

Been tryin’ to find some we like
That don’t cost too much but still look alright.

So what arrives in the neighborhood?
J.C. Penney catalog – yeah rugs lookin good!

And here comes an email – I ain’t trippin’
Says ole JC will cover cost of shippin.’

But that offer, it ends today.
So what I’m really tryin’ to say
Is if you are lookin’ for some discount rates
Use code BIG99FSH.

Word … to the Mother.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And the Rain Came

I finished mowing the yard and was on my way to dump off the grass just ahead of the rain.

As I turned on the road to the dump, the skies opened up. By the time I pulled into the site, small hail was hitting the car. The hail dissipated quickly enough but the rain did not. Pretty soon there were three other cars all waiting for the rain to let up to ditch our yard waste. It didn't let up.

I finally had enough. Got up. Dumped the grass. Got soaked to the skin. That was almost five hours ago. It's STILL raining, but now the sun is out.

I was going to go and get the panel for the bathroom but didn't feel like fighting the rain. If I weren't sore all over (especially my left leg which got gashed and bruised when I slipped yesterday and came down on the edge of the deck) I would try to finish ripping up the kitchen floor to get it into tomorrow's trash.

Instead, I've been doing little housekeeping things and working on some stuff for work. But, if I started in the next 30 minutes or so, I bet I could still get it done tonight ...

Design on the Fly

As it turns out, my dread of the bathroom tub surround project was well founded – just not for the reasons I thought.

I had feared that as we stripped away the old surround, it would reveal water-soaked, crumbling walls, covered with mold. That was not the case. Instead, we found just one small area that fit that description – a spot where the caulk had clearly failed. The area around the water faucet was a little crumbly, as was the bottom half of the main wall of the shower, a spot where, not coincidentaCheck Spellinglly, the old surround had a sizable crack.

A single piece of cement board took care of both of these areas. If only the rest of the day had been so simple or gone so well.

The three-piece tub surround that we’d bought, the one that both the mother and I liked a lot, would not fit. Not without ripping out parts of the wall that were perfectly fine so that it could be attached directly to the studs. (One thing I have tried to NEVER do at This D*mn House is to open up something that is otherwise solid. That is usually an invitation to trouble.) “You’re going to have to put in another five-piece unit,” Lawrence concluded. To add insult to injury, this surround – and any other at this standard height –would leave about a 16-inch gap from the top to where our current trim begins. How do I fix that? My brain was flying 100 directions.

So, it was with that feeling of dread staring me in the face that this news had to be broken to the mother. Let’s just say she was not happy.

There was the bath, without plumbing and stripped to bare wall, with two gaping holes (we’d not yet put in the cement board and Lawrence still had to rework the plumbing) – at nearly 2:30.

We had no other alternative at our fingertips and the dread circled me once again as I recalled the other surround options the mother and I had seen when we’d chosen the Eleganza model.
The short version is that Lawrence and I boxed up the one that wouldn’t fit, returned it, and then I was given the agonizing choice between two in-stock models at Lowe’s and three at Home Depot.

Two of the Home Depot models were just plain ugly; the third, which was a “tall” model, would have helped cover some of the gaping wall space, but the display was incredibly thin and brittle. “I’d avoid that,” Lawrence counseled. The two at Lowe’s were not what I wanted either. I tried for the lesser of two evils.

Suffice it to say that the mother doesn’t like it. Even so, it’s in our bathroom now. Lawrence worked until nearly 9 p.m. to make it so. (We started the day at 9:30. I’d actually started an hour earlier, clearing out the bathroom and getting things ready.)

The good news is that during the ordeal, I suggested getting a piece of vinyl beadboard – once readily available – to fill in the blank upper space. We have beadboard throughout the bathroom (and the kitchen) so it would match. Good solution! The bad news: Neither store carries it anymore.

The mother suggested using sheets of subway-style tile we’d seen. It would match the new surround and we’d considered using these for the whole surround to begin with. (Lawrence recommended against using them for the whole surround.)

Currently, that’s the option we’re going with. It’s disappointing and frustrating, but it’s a plan. I’m saving pictures until it’s finished.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Clothes, Clutter, and Closet Space

Thank God it’s Friday. If it wasn’t, I think I might cry.

It’s been a long, tough week both at home and work but I think I’m beginning to emerge from my ”house blues” phase. DIY gets frustrating sometimes and when you’ve been at it as long as we have and the projects just keep on coming ceaselessly, it’s not hard to get discouraged. Throw in the challenges of day-to-day life outside the house, and well, it gets even tougher.

Part of it is the ability to see a little bit of light. The mother has been hard at work for more than a week on the family room and laundry room. Mind you, if you were to go down there, you wouldn’t appreciate the difference. It still pretty much resembles a warehouse. But …it looks so much better than it did last week. Things are being moved into more permanent places and the laundry room is sporting a fresh coat of paint.

The effort is two-fold. First, the mother’s been working to make it both functional and livable until we can get down there to do the work we have planned for the family room. (Yeah. More projects.) Second, we need the laundry room. It will give us a place to paint the cabinet doors and other items during the next week or so when rain is a possibility just about every day. And, she’s getting things set up again as a large, relatively unrestricted play area for Toby.

This was previously Tigger’s domain and, until we started storing stuff in the family room, he had full run of it, too. With Tigger, we had to do this because while he adored people, he loathed other animals. (He had attacked Ozzie multiple times, once nearly severing an ear, so we had to do something.) In the future, Toby can stay there when we’re both gone OR when people come so he doesn’t have to hide under the furniture the whole time. (Forced socialization hasn't worked.)

Toby is pretty well-behaved other than the screaming, but he, too, likes to torture poor Ozzie. We don’t leave them alone together for very long. When we do, we’ve come in to find Ozzie huddled in a corner somewhere – a sure sign that Toby has been bullying him. God help him if Oz ever gets his fill. He may eat him! But Ozzie is 12 now and I refuse to have him tortured.

The other great thing has been the clearing out of junk and of clothes we either can’t or don’t wear. I spent several hours last night reclaiming my summer clothes and packing away winter ones. (We don’t have enough closet space to keep everything out year-round.) The good news is that I filled a 13-gallon trash bag with things to give away and finally just threw some things out.

Other things, like old Ts and shorts will get one last hurrah. Once I wear them for whatever job I’m doing, they’ll get trashed. The mother filled a 39-gallon bag AND is finally turning loose of a bunch of old dishes and crap that moves from one side of the basement to the other on a regular basis. YAY!

Hoping this momentum continues.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Before and After ‘09

Our friends over at One Project Closer have started their annual Before and After feature again! (You might notice I still have the ’08 badge up. I need to replace it with their new one.)

They were kind enough last year to post my fence project – making a donation to Habitat for Humanity in my name – and even put it in the running for the best project of 2008. I didn’t win but that didn’t matter; it wasn’t the project I really wanted to send them anyway.

I will soon, however, be sending them the porch and walkway project. That was the gem I wanted to share last year but since I’d already won and I didn’t truly finish until FALL, I didn’t get to enter it. So watch for that soon. In the meantime, check out the rules and enter your own before and after.

They’ve really sweetened the pot this year! In addition to getting a $35 donation made on your behalf to Habitat for Humanity ( a VERY good group to support incidentally) YOU get to choose a $25 gift card to Lowe’s, Home Depot, or And, as if all that wasn't quite enough, at the end of the summer, they'll pick a GRAND PRIZE winner who gets to pick a $150 gift card! Pretty d*mn cool. (And you know I'll be asking for your vote if I'm lucky enough to get in the running.)

Can you say tools?!

Lawrence on the Line

I reached Lawrence last night and am happy to report that he'll be here on Saturday to work on the tub surround.

Poor Lawrence. The mother and I truly put Forrest Gump's box of chocolates to shame: Lawrence really never knows what he's gonna get. I'd talked to him about the tub surround weeks ago, but he seemed a bit surprised when I told him it was already in the driveway. (I guess even after almost 2.5 years, he still hasn't adapted to the "complete and total chaos" approach to home improvement.)

"We'll take a look and see what we can do about that," he said. That made me chuckle. He has yet to tell me "no."

He asked how my floor was coming and how the cabinet doors came out. I had to tell him that both were still works in progress. Lawrence knows my work ethic so I don't think he thinks any less of me for this stuff taking forever to do. He'll have to kid me about it, even so.

I sure hope that the surround will be OK and that it goes well. This is yet another job I've been dreading, afraid to see what might be behind the existing one. (This is one of the main reasons I didn't take on tiling the shower walls. Well, that and the fact that we only have the one bathroom and I hope to bathe again in my lifetime.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Little Details

During the past few days, I’ve started slowly compiling a mental list of “little” things I still need to buy. You know, those last-minute kind of things that you neeeever think about –until you need them. And by then, it’s about five minutes after the hardware store closed!

Thinks like new screws for the cabinet doors. Small brads to tack up the freshly-painted new trim in the bathroom (but not until after the new tub surround goes up.) From there, things get a little bigger like flooring adhesive and grout for the kitchen and bathroom floors. I have two brand new diamond blades for the RotoZip and there’s a tile nipper in the kit I bought over the weekend, so I should be in good shape on the flooring jobs otherwise.

I need to start writing these things down, that’s for sure. That’s part of the problem when there are so many things going on at once. And the mother is no help. She’s already six or seven projects ahead. I have to keep reminding her: We HAVE to finish the kitchen and bathroom first. And we HAVE to. I can’t stand it much more. Right now, it’s rough just getting in and out of the kitchen. I still have about a fourth of the old flooring to tear up and then I have to put the backerboard down.

And then, HOW am I going to put tile in there with the appliances? I don’t have anywhere else to go with them! There is no room at the inn in the dining room and I am NOT fighting either one of those bad boys in or out of there again.

These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night. That, and a screaming cat.

The Shower in My Carport

I think I'd mentioned that the mother and I hit Lowe's one night last week and ordered a new tub surround and all of the trim for the basement landing hallway and the family room. We arranged for delivery.

Really, we did. The poor kid running the computer at the bath design desk just didn't know what the hell he was doing. He tried. And tried. And tried. He apologized profusely the whole time as he repeatedly keyed in the order, took our phone number, and then ... started over.
When we got to the checkout, we were supposed to be able to just give our phone number, pay, and walk out. Of course, it didn't work that way. In fact, even though we DID eventually get an order and pay, it didn't work at all.

The order did not show up Monday afternoon as scheduled. When the mother called, she was initially told that there was no delivery in the system and that "we had left the store with the merchandise." Huh?

Yeah, I threw that shower surround on my back and carried that SOB home. Right.

Eventually, she got someone who saw that we did NOT have a delivery charge on our order. The receipt confirmed this. In all the madness of even trying to place this order AND then being denied an extra $10 discount from a coupon Lowe's sent me, I honestly hadn't noticed. I KNEW that the computer screen back at the design desk had said DELIVERY and had said Monday afternoon before we left the bath department. I know, because I saw the kid go through this process 12 times before we finally managed to reach THOSE screens!

Obviously, something broke down between then and the check-out. Luckily, Lowe's did the right thing. They promised to bring the order on Tuesday afternoon. (A general manager called yesterday, apologizing left and right. In the many issues we've had with both Lowe's and Home Depot over the years, that has never happened. Note to those guys: Yeah, that makes a difference.)

When I got home, it was in the carport. All but five boards. (They only had 8 in stock. We need 13.) And they're supposedly going to deliver those, too, in a week or so. I carried the boards downstairs but the tub surround has taken up temporary residence in the carport. It's going to look great in the bathroom though. Here's what the model looks like.

And both deliveries? They're on Lowe's dime. I love that. But it's as it should be, really.

See, if you'd just given me that extra $10 off ... you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble. Instead, karma bit you in the butt!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Parental Madness

I worry about the mother. I fear that one of these days, she really is going to get jacked, robbed, or, gulp, killed. Case in point: Last month’s stand-off ala Charles Bronson with a would-be robber at the carwash.

That brings me to the wee hours of this morning.

I had just gotten to sleep, finally feeling the woozy effects of a pain pill I’d taken an hour or so earlier. (It’s not something I do often, but my hands and legs were still very sore from the flooring demo and all the associated appliance-moving.) Suddenly, I hear my door open, and then the mother. “Can you come out here for a minute please?”

Huh? I was still semi-dazed and stumbled into the livingroom – to find a young girl seated on the loveseat. She looked to be about 17 or 18. She had on socks, but no shoes.

It was nearly 1 a.m.

“This girl is in trouble and I’m going to take her home,” the mother says to me.

“Wait. Let me go with you,” I say to the air as the front door closes in front of my still-dazed face. What the hell? Was the kid a front for a sinister plot? Was someone going to lure my mother away from the house, rob her (maybe worse), and steal Pearl? All kinds of horrible scenarios flashed through my mind. I debated going out and revving up Ladybird and trying to follow in the general direction I thought she was headed.

Twenty minutes later – that felt like hours – the mother returned. Apparently, this 14-year-old had been at a friend’s three or four miles away when another girl provoked a fight. Instead of fighting, this girl left and started walking home – in socks. She noticed a light on (and the front door was partially open) at This D*mn House and decided to ask to use the phone.

She said she was staying at her aunt’s a few miles away because her mother was working nights. My question: And how is that they didn’t know where the hell this kid was?! Lot of good that arrangement did.

I scolded the mother. “What if this kid HAD been just a lure?” I asked. “What if you’d ended up dead on the side of the road?” There sure wouldn’t be much I could tell the police.

“I couldn’t see calling the police and getting her into trouble,” says the mother. “And I sure just couldn’t leave her out there. What if one of these predators picked that poor child up and did something to her? I couldn’t live with myself.”

Folks, she is going to turn me completely gray. Completely.

Caving Under Chaos

The livingroom is like a safe haven. Except for the animals' toys, bedding, etc., (an an occasional tool), it's the one place currently unaffected by all the madness inside This D*mn House.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Working on a house while simultaneously living in it sucks. Hands down, it's one of the worst things one can endure long-term. Or at least it is for me. Home is supposed to be a place to escape to not escape from. And, with the latest round of work well into a third month, it's starting to take its toll on me.

Makes me just want to stay right here on this loveseat and not dare venture anywhere else in the house.

OK. Not like that is going to happen, but it doesn't keep me from wanting it. There's a whole lot of pride that goes into being able to say you did something yourself and in doing things in your home where you surround yourself with your handiwork. In fact, there's a great deal to be said for that kind of satisfaction.

Even so, it can come at a great cost somedays. It wears on you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Throw in a full-time job -- a job in which every burner is full and pots are boiling over -- and it can get to be too much in a hurry. (If you've ever undertaken a huge or multiple DIY projects simultaneously, you know EXACTLY what I mean. You've been there.)

So, as I pull my sorry ass from bed this morning, I'm already repeating the mantra: It will get done. It will look great. It will all be worth it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

And the Stork Lands

“The happiest days are when babies come.” – Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind

MamaMartha – or should I now say GrandmaMartha – got a delayed firecracker: grandson Braidon was born last night. (Even though we are so NOT old enough to be grandparents yet.)

She reports that everyone is doing well and that little Mr. B. looks exactly like his daddy did as a newborn. She was kind enough to share pictures of the new arrival. I ask you: How cute is he?!

Congratulations to Martha and family! I think we know what she’ll be scrapbooking for a long, long time to come.

A Final Plea

I know I’ve mentioned this before but MaggieDammit’s site, Violence UnSilenced, is up for an award – and running a hard fought battle that ends TODAY. So, I’ll ask for your help one final time. You can vote for it as Most Inspiring Blog by clicking here.

Maggie is not one to tell you how completely absorbing this blog is to establish, manage, and maintain. It takes a lot both emotionally and physically. And, as anyone who has ever blogged on a regular basis, it takes time and effort – a lot of both if you’re dedicated to it, as Maggie clearly is.

I can tell you firsthand what a game-changing experience that blog has been for me and I know for others, too. The hope is that by bringing some much deserved recognition to the site during the BlogHer conference later this month, even more people will hear about it, read it, and maybe get the encouragement they need to get out of an abusive situation.

So, please, check out the BlogLuxe awards and use your vote to tell Maggie what a great job she’s done in “birthing” this site, and to tell all of its contributors that their experiences matter.

Of Doors and Floors

The kitchen floor removal is not complete.

The upgrade of the kitchen door, however, is.

It is the ONE project on my list of to-dos for yesterday that actually got done. In a nutshell, I took this ultra plain, ordinary door. And I souped it up!

It was actually the mother's idea to use some of the birch panel we had left from the cabinets to put in the middle panel. There was just one problem: the largest piece of the leftovers was about 3 inches short.

We were ready to abandon the idea when I had an epiphany. What if we trimmed it out using the small egg molding that will eventually top the kitchen backsplash and accent the existing molding in the bathroom?

I put a piece of it up temporarily and looked at it. Hmmm ... this could work. So I added a few pieces of trim to Sunday's shopping trip. (The extra fun part: I got to use Pearl's "secret" compartment that lets you run items from inside the trunk through the back seat and into the car. Yet another reason to just ADORE that car! Note: cooler people than me use this hole in the backseat to haul skis, something Pearl never has to worry about on my behalf.)

Anyway, I spent part of the afternoon mitreing trim, but there was another problem: Even with the trim, there was still between a 1/4 and a 1/2-inch gap both top and bottom. DAMMIT!

But ... I still had a little of the pine strips I'd used to finish out the inside of the cabinet doors. I added a piece to the trim top and bottom and VOILA! It worked. It looks merely like a planned-out feature of the trim. Mind you, it all still needs to be painted, but I think the finished product is lookin' good.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Tally

Here's a snapshot of my Sunday.

  • Number of things I set out to accomplish today: 4
  • Number of those things I completed: 1
  • Number of things not on the list that I accomplished today: 5
  • Number of times dog and/or cat have been told NOT to go in the kitchen or to get out of the kitchen: 836 (and counting)
  • Number of times either has listened: 0
  • Number of fireworks explosions heard today: 111
  • Number of partial episodes of Renovation Realities either seen or heard today: 6
  • Number of times that the mother has said: "What?" when I've been speaking to her: 9,988
  • Number of Band-Aids used: 3
  • Number of contractor bags of trash carried to the alley: 5
  • Number of times the Shop Vac has been run in kitchen: 12
  • Number of times Shop Vac has been taken downstairs or retrieved from downstairs: 5
  • Number of tools broken: 1
  • Number of tools purchased: 2
  • Number of times the phrase "Take it to Goodwill" has been uttered: 52

A Funny DIY Story

At the wedding reception last week, I got updates on several cousins who could not attend. I alluded to a funny DIY story I was told about Dago's brother, J.

J. was always a good-natured, fun-loving guy. He was fairly athletic but always lived in the laborer shadow of my uncle when it came to doing anything house-related. According to my cousins, his wife accepted this a long time ago and regularly tries to dissuade him from taking on DIY projects. (In addition to fouling things up, he is also accident-prone. Must be genetic!)

Anyway, for some reason, J. needed an extension ladder. He decided to rent one. His wife told him to secure it to the top of their van. He thought that would be too much trouble to try and lock it to the roof. Instead, he decided to put it IN the van where he assured his wife he'd make sure it was secured.

He got the ladder, locked it in, and drove home. As he pulled up in front of his house, a kid or a dog or something ran out in the street, forcing J. to jam on the brakes. As he did, the ladder extended and promptly went through the van's winshield -- as J.'s wife watched from the porch.

I can SO see this happening. Apparently, he DID secure the ladder in place, just didn't sufficiently lock down the extension! Yep. That's my family.


I made up for the Lazy Friday with a Very Busy Saturday.

All day long it would pour one minute and the sun would try desperately to shine the next. Crazy. I watched most of this transpire through the kitchen window where I spent the majority of the day on the floor.

It's also where I was tonight when the blasts from the fireworks' grand finale shook the windows. It was the first time in four or five years that I didn't go see the display.

I knew there was a reason I wasn't anxious to start this job. In fact, there are FIVE reasons. The five layers of flooring I have to tear up. It was slow going. I really hate tearing up that floor. Those vinyl planks have been great. And when I put them down a little more than three years ago, they were pretty easy to put down. (Much easier than standard 12x12s, that's for sure!)

Here's a look at the various layers of what I've been pulling up. Most of it's vinyl tile with the occasional piece of wooden subfloor (to replace some of the damaged parquet that makes up the rest of one of the layers.)

When I finally gave up for the day, I was two-thirds of the way down to the last layer. My plan is that once I get down to the last layer and I start pulling it up, I have the backerboard ready to put down. This would have been a little easier had I started this when we didn't have a stove.

Here's how far I got by mid-evening. (When I quit, every piece you see here was down to its last level. Isn't that green linoleum just lovely?! It's the floor that was in the kitchen and dining room when we moved in. It was among the first things that were changed within months of moving in. I think it's not hard to guess why.

Tomorrow (or more accurately, later today) I have to go pick up some things. With all this rain (it was pouring yet AGAIN about 90 minutes ago) I'm not even going to worry about the lawn. I'm going to focus on the floor ... and on a door project AND, ideally, on getting the backsplash up. But first, it's time for some medication and heading to bed!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Soggy Holiday

So far, the forecasters are right. They said rain during the morning hours and off and on during the rest of the day. I awoke to rain banging on the windows a few hours ago but went back to sleep.

It’s still pouring now. I’m really glad it wasn’t like this last Saturday when the refrigerator came! Today, I don’t really have any outdoor activities planned. Good thing. I’m almost surprised that I don’t. I feel sorry for people who do.

I need to start tearing the kitchen floor up. I had planned to start yesterday, but yesterday quickly turned into a “nothing” day. Nothing, as in I did a whole lot of nothing. It was a very pleasant change of pace.

We went and picked up some things – including a new register for the kitchen. Who knew there were so many different kinds and sizes. Here’s hoping this one fits! And, the mother bought a set of luggage for her pending trip. (She has finally realized that there is no way she can’t NOT check a bag. The new luggage is WHEELED, too. Something she will really appreciate as she mills through airports changing planes.)

The other thing I have to do is make room for the new tub enclosure and all of the molding (13 eight-foot boards) that we bought for the hallway and family room downstairs. Those are being delivered on Monday. I’m not sure where that space is coming from. We have so much stuff sitting around right now already that we really could pass for our own hardware store.

I watched a few minutes of The Messiest Home in the Country a few nights ago and it made me a nervous wreck because I saw some parallels to This D*mn House. At least we have a valid excuse for having piles of stuff everywhere. Living and working in a house simultaneously is never easy or fun. It does get very, very old though.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Workin' in the U.S.A.

It was a short day in an even shorter week, but with an extra long to-do list. Even so, I still made some headway, but left about 45 minutes later than I'd hoped. Even with that being the case, I still only worked a little over eight hours today. (I normally work at least 10.)

The day started out right though. I'm happy to report that Pearl's CD player is fine and dandy in spite of its recent trauma. Getting into downtown pre-dawn was a piece of cake. Getting out of downtown mid-afternoon though was murder as preparation for Fair St. Louis interrupted traffic, including shutting down my normal route out of town when I drive.

The one plus in the reroute was that the way home wound me past the steel mill. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see cars in the parking lot and laborers going in and out of the building. My how we take such things for granted sometimes! Even if the employment numbers for June were bad, I'm here to tell you, that in our part of the woods, it must be getting better.

I know it's not so for others and I feel for them. It's going to be a while before we can move out of this mess. But on this weekend, of all weekends, it's important to remember just what it is that Americans are capable of, what we've survived, how far we've come.

Happy birthday, America. I'm hopin' that your best and brightest years are still ahead.

City Garden, Part Two

They had more coverage on the news last night about City Garden and I was thrilled to see that it LIGHTS UP at night. How cool is that?! I'm usually not here after dark that often so I'll have to make a point to see it this summer.

But let's continue with the tour of things that you can see in the light of the day.

Like I said, there's a lot of water everywhere. Am I wrong or does this just look totally crazy in the middle of a metro area? (Crazy in the coolest sense of the word.)

Take this fountain in front of the giant head, a sculpture that reminds me of ancient Rome/Greece in ruins. Here's a close-up. I showed you this back in April -- but there surely weren't kids running through it then.

Like I said, lots of sculpture. Here's another example I really like.

This piece sits atop a small, grassy hill. A couple (you can see the woman of the duo) had paused with their bikes to get a close-up look.

As I was walking up the stairs that run parallel to it, two women deep in conversation passed me.

"How'd you like to ride that horse?" one asked the other. (That made me laugh because I didn't think of the creature as being a horse. It looked like an elongated ram to me. I adore the skinny legs! They look more like a giraffe's, don't they?)

"You'd have to take the star off first," came the reply. (That made me laugh harder because, well, yeah. It would be rather uncomfortable otherwise.)

I liked this piece because it was both artistic and whimsical. City Garden seems to be a good mix of the two. And, of course, more often than not, there's a good dose of "fountain" thrown in for good measure as we see in this piece. I'd probably suck as an art critic. I just don't get the prehistoric rib cage in the background. (Well, it looks like a dinosaur just fell there and was unearthed a million years later, doesn't it?)

As I was saying about the whimsy ... these really cracked me up. They looked incredibly out of place, but like they belonged at the same time, if that makes any sense.

Can you say Night of the Lepus? Maybe that's why when I saw this next shot, I had an almost overwhelming urge to yell, "Grandma, look out! The giant killer rabbits are watching you ... and they're hungry!"
All in all, City Garden is one of the best of green space the city has created, maybe ever. And as my dear friend Plumbelieve pointed out, it's all right here -- in St. Louis.