Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Developments of 2009

I’ve already talked about all the things going on with the residents of This D*mn House. But 2009 was full of activity for the house itself, too.

· Pimpin’ the Shed – A project that was a carry-over from 2008, I finally got the exterior of the storage shed resided.
· Michelangelo (Phase 1) – We finally reached a consensus on what kind of ceiling tiles to use – faux tintype in white, unfinished 2x3 sheets of polystyrene. The mother painted some black for the bathroom and silver for the kitchen, including a few extra for backsplash. (All of these except for one section of backsplash in the kitchen) are now in place. Phase 2 will be included in my overview of 2010.
· New Appliances – The mother nearly drove me to distraction after falling in love with an oversized (at least for our tiny kitchen) refrigerator. It took months for me to find one that would meet her exacting standards and nearly that long to find a stove to match. We also got a new under-the-cabinet can opener and a still unboxed microwave.
· Bathroom floor – We both fell in love with the black and white hex mosaic and this gave me a chance to try my hand at porcelain tile. I don’t think it came out too badly (except for some stubborn grout haze which I’ve all but corrected.) Still some work to be done here.
· Goodbye cabinets! – With some help from the ever loyal Lawrence, I was able to shed the kitchen of its antiquated raised panel doors. More recently, we manufactured some drawer fronts to match. There is still quite a bit of work though to get this project across the finish line. Even so, it already looks incredibly different.
· Kitchen floor – Tearing up the old kitchen floor, or I should say floors as there were at least three or four layers of them, was a bear. I only got as far as putting the new Hardibacker down. Porcelain tile is coming. Soon.
· Carport conundrum – That disquieting lean that the carport had been reaching during the past decade was finally corrected – and based on what Lawrence and I found, not a minute too soon! The idiots who built the carport had just set the columns in the dirt – load-bearing columns! – with no footing underneath. Luckily, we were able to fix that and I even got to fix the excavation we did by adding a little brickwork, tying it neatly to the walkway and porch. Matchy, matchy!
· Tub enclosure – We didn’t get the one that we wanted, but we did get a new one. And it’s white, too! All of which brought about some additional and previously unexpected changes for the bathroom. Like new wallpaper. That’s another still to come project.

Lots of projects but most of them are just the beginning of something else. Yep. It's going to be a VERY busy 2010! Happy New Year everybody!

A Look Back

I've had to remind myself a number of times already that today is the last day of the year. It hardly seems possible. Add to that, it's already going to be 2010! To think just 10 short years ago we were partyin' like it was 1999. Amazing.


It's been a big year at This D*mn House, even with all of the house projects aside. There were a lot of comings and goings just within our family. Our long-standing furfiend Tigger died at the end of March and my great-uncle Bill followed suit not long after.


Pearl arrived at the beginning of May and it would be hard to begin to describe the joy that has added to my life. And in July and September respectively, two of my nearest and dearest became grandmothers. (In spite of the fact that we are MUCH too young for such things.) Can't wait to see new photos next weekend!!!
July also brought a baby to our house -- yet another of the furry variety. Taz, the abandoned kitten, joined our clan. She would be part of both the coming and goings for the year, going to live with a new family in November where I am pleased to report she is much loved and very happy.
September also saw something I'd been trying to accomplish for the mother for three years: meeting Chris Botti. In November, I marked a first by going to a hockey game for the first time.

WOW! And those are just some of the things that happened this year.

Until I started putting this post together, even I had failed to completely appreciate what a big year it's been. The most important thing though is that, in spite of a year that has been so devastating for some, I've managed to remain employed, the mother and I have been healthy (well, relatively), and things under the roof at This D*mn House are safe and sound.

My dear friend CD will definitely appreciate this summary for '09:
Lucky I'm sane after all I've been through
But still I'm cool. (She's) cool.
I can't complain but sometimes I still do.
Life's been good to me so far. -- Joe Walsh, "Life's Been Good"

Yup. All in all, I've got to say it was a pretty good year.

Coming next: The year in review from the DIY perspective.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nip It in the Bud

When it comes to illness, I think the worst thing that can plague you is vomiting. Second only to that is a sore throat. In my book, either of those are sufficient grounds for a whin-o-rama.
Last night, I came close to suffering both.

I’ve been congested for weeks after suffering whatever that bug was a while back. The cough and congestion have gotten worse in the last week or so and yesterday, the sore throat arrived. It was accompanied by an unbearable tenderness on my right neck. It also came with nasty-colored goop gathering in and draining from both my throat and nose. And, I was running a temp of about 100. All things point to: another sinus infection. Ugh! D*mn! Can I not stop getting these already? Sheesh.

So, I kept pouring hot tea down. I popped Tylenol and a leftover antibiotic, put ear drops in both ears (because they had started in by this time), took a hot shower and was in bed more than an hour earlier than usual. I repeated the cycle today (adding hot soup to the line-up) and all seems MUCH better. No more sore throat, the ears are behaving again and the neck tenderness is all but gone. And I’m going to bed early, tonight, too!

I tried to call my allergist to see if he’d get me more antibiotics for the long weekend but haven’t had any luck reaching anyone. I’ll keep trying AND we’ll see if I have successfully stopped this thing from going down the nastiest of roads. Here’s hoping.

I Hate Snow

Just in case I've failed to mention it *removing tongue from cheek*, I hate snow. For the record, if I had my way, snow would be confined to movies and Christmas cards. That's the only places I would want to ever see it.


But d*mn. Even I'm forced to admit that it's pretty. A b*tch to drive in (especially when as little as a dusting seems to make people extra stupid here), but pretty.




Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Beauty of the Internet

I have to admit, there are days that I don’t know how we lived before the Internet. Today was one such day.


I do a lot of online shopping. I've bought everything from books and CDs to digital cameras to our new stove! I'm usually not amazed by what I can find on the Internet because it so rarely fails me. But, on occasion, it can still send me reeling by both the speed at which it locates what I'm looking for and with the price associated with it.

In my preparation for Crop Camp, I have nearly killed my supply of a major photo industry leader’s picture paper. They are a former client and during one of my visits, I was privy to the company store and was able to pack a few 50-sheet packs in my carry-on at a bargain basement price. That was more than two years ago (probably closer to three) and many Crop Camps and other projects have slowly eroded that supply.

I was online for all of 30 seconds and found exactly what I was looking for and at a great price – on eBay.

Over the weekend, the mother was lamenting the inability to find Wind and Willow’s White Chocolate Cherry Cheeseball mix at our usual local establishments. Apparently, this is a “seasonal” product and a little tough to find after the holidays.

I solved that problem in about a minute and got a shock: I found it on AMAZON! They sell it and many other flavors in a six-pack for $19! (That's even cheaper than the $3.50 to $4 per box we pay locally.) Free shipping on orders over $25 applies, too, so I doubled up. The mother will be thrilled.

Dear Internet: I love you!

Happy, Happy, Happy

Today, there are all kinds of well wishes to send out from This D*mn House.

First, a very Happy Anniversary to Mr. and Mrs. PlumBelieve. It’s their 20th anniversary. Man, 20 years. That sure goes fast! So, 20 years – and four kids – later, here’s hoping the love is just as strong as in the infamous float trip picture. (Which I’ve not shared here.) And here’s to 20 more … at least!

And then, there’s wishing a very happy birthday to Stevie Ray, son of B., who was born on the PlumBelives’ first wedding anniversary, forever making Dec. 29 a doubly special day! Happy 19th birthday (shaking as I type that), Stevie!
He would probably kill me for putting this here but it's too cute. (And I didn't do it on Facebook!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Lazy, Lazy, Lazy!

Today was one of those perfect days where I would do stuff -- and then take a nap.

I got up early and got the trash out. Turns out I needn't have bothered. The trashman didn't come until almost noon! But I got up and did it and put some things away and picked other stuff up and then went to bed. (The mother and I stayed up kind of late watching Doubt.)

Then I got up and did a bit of running. I must be living a charmed life because yesterday's snow is all but gone. Makes me so happy. It didn't take much effort to clear what was left off of Ladybird and the streets were remarkably clear.

One of the to-dos on my list for today was to recycle cans. Well, I tried. They are closed until Jan. 4! I delivered the rest of our charity goods (another thing on today's list) so I was able to just stuff the cans into Ladybird's trunk.

Then I did some more stuff to get ready for Crop Camp. I actually FOUND stuff I was looking for. (Writing this on the calendar as it rarely happens until AFTER the fact.) I still have to get to clothes packing. Of course, that's going to require LAUNDRY first. Ugh.

But then I had some lunch and took ANOTHER nap! Ah, glorious. Going back to work tomorrow is going to bite it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gettin' Ready

I awoke this morning to snow-covered streets. This changed my initial plans for the day. At first, I thought it just delayed them but every time I would go to get bundled to go out and clean off cars, the snow returned with a vengeance.

Luckily, by mid-afternoon the snow was intermittent and the streets, once quite ugly, were just wet. The grass and other surfaces remained covered. I'm guessing we got a little over 2 inches. Then the sun came out and it began to dwindle.

By that time though I was knee-deep in preparing for Crop Camp. It IS just 12 days away after all! I'm happy to say that I'm in pretty good shape, roughly 75 percent prepped and most of that remaining 25 percent is all clothes. So, I'm feeling pretty good about that. And have I mentioned that I CAN'T WAIT?! Well, just in case, I CAN'T WAIT!

Tomorrow though I have a list of things I have to do. It's my last vacation day for the year and I need to make the most of it. And, I've decided that next weekend I'm going to finish the bathroom floor. Should be great since we aren't going anywhere (like with Christmas) and there won't be any shopping excursions required. So, that will be a year-end project that ideally will set the course for 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After Christmas

All that making merry yesterday! We didn't get home until almost 11:30. We ended up watching almost all of Home Alone before finally calling it a day.

Then we got up way ahead of the chickens and left the house by 6:15 a.m. to do a little bargain-hunting. The mother had some specific things in mind and she got them! We made only two stops, had breakfast and were home again before 10.

This was a marked difference from the day after Thanksgiving. We were the first car on the lot at Gordman's (outside a few that obviously belonged to a few employees). When the store opened at 7, we were among the first five people in the building.

There was almost no traffic at all. None. It was truly amazing. Really a welcome surprise

***

The mother had a childhood friend and former neighbor whose birthday was just a few days after Christmas. The widow who originally lived next door to This D*mn House when we bought it had a Christmas Eve birthday. But today, the day after Christmas, that belongs to the MonkeyGirl.

I know that people born around the holidays usually get a little gyped by having their birthdays wrapped into a neat little ball with Christmas. Sometimes, they don't even get birthday wrap -- they get Christmas paper. As a summer baby, I can't even begin to comprehend having my birthday melded with some other holiday.

So, consider it an official NOT HOLIDAY wishing of a very happy birthday to my MEF! I'm already way geared for Crop Camp. (Just 12 days plus ... YAY!)

Scenes from Christmas

Kitty cats with stockings

A souffle baked by me



Hangin' with the mother









And children in 3-D.
Yorkies opening presents

And future rock stars, too

Budding young photographers,

And top hats bearing rabbits -- bippity, boppity, boo!

My poem will soon be ending

Just like 2009.

So hope your Christmas was merry

And that the day was fine.

So raise the glass and drink up

a great big gulp of cheer

Best wishes to each and every one

For the happiest New Year.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Night Before Christmas -- This D*mn House Style

With all apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas and at This D*mn House
NV was trying oh so hard not to grouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In the hopes that Toby wouldn’t strip them both bare.

The furkids were nestled all snug on the couch
As the mother vacuumed the floor – oh yes, she’s no slouch!
I joined them soon, making room with a tap,
Settling into the sofa for a brief winter’s nap.

When on the front lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sofa to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon’s first quarter cast an interesting glow
Upon the neighborhood’s latest holiday freak show.
There, right before my disbelieving eyes did appear,
Lawnmower Man in full Santa Claus gear.

The little old driver, so pokey and slow
Must have decided my yard needed a mow.
He made one pass across, then two and then three,
Before catching in the window a glimpse of unhappy me.

He shrugged his shoulders and then raised the blade’s bar,
“On my way to the tavern – it’s safer than a car.”
And I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

A Very Merry Meltdown

Despite my best efforts to avoid last-minute shopping, I had to stop at Walgreens on the way home. It was a madhouse and I was barely able to get Pearl onto the lot. Not to mention, it was pouring. Pouring.

I know, I know at least it’s not a blizzard. Believe me, I’m grateful for that. Really.

But it only got worse from there.

I was able to get through the store, grab my handful of items and find a spot in line that wasn’t at the back of the store. Three check-outs were going strong and then … meltdown.

“The phone link is down,” announced the cashier manning my line. Uh-oh. But what does that mean?

“We can’t redeem gift cards or sell gift cards.”

Well, that could be a problem considering that Walgreens now carries a variety of gift cards to restaurants and stores. And, it’s Christmas Eve. And, it seemed every third person in line had a gift card they wanted to buy. Groans, mumbles and a few assorted obscenities wafted down the lines.

Then came the nuclear meltdown announcement: “We can’t process credit or debit cards either.”

Merchandise was flung down in check-outs. The crowds began to disappear like water at the parting of the Red Sea. Suddenly, I was next in line. Thank God I had some cash on me! I felt really bad for those who didn't or for those who thought their last-minute gift problem -- in the form of a gift card -- was solved.

Getting off of the parking lot was another exercise in madness. But finally, I made it home.

We're eating some dinner and later we'll watch "It's A Wonderful Life." (This time, I'll actually get to sit down and watch it.) Then we'll likely catch one of the showings of "A Christmas Story."

A nice, quiet Christmas. Hope it's the same for you and yours and that Santa is super generous this year.

Merry Christmas and God bless us -- every one!

Christmas Memories

Christmas was always a magical, but maniacal, time of year.

My grandmother loved Christmas. My grandfather might well have been Ebenezer Scrooge himself. I remember being little, maybe 4, and being terrified that the old man would make good on his threat to wait up for Santa and hit him in the head with a brick. (Young Tom was sadistic that way, mean old man.)

When we lived with them during the holidays -- and this was the case many times during my early life -- the mother had to fight to put up a tree. Young Tom thought Christmas and all its trimmings were "a bunch of bunk."

But that never dampened the season for long. Soon, I was getting visits from Timothy the Elf, an invention of the mother's and her cousin's, her cousin, mother of my late faux brother, Steven. (Timothy would magically knock on doors and windows and wherever those sounds emanated from, I would inevitably find a prize. I was in college before I found out that the two of them were in cahoots, each having served as the noise generator for the other.)

Going to see Santa was an awesome experience usually preceded or followed by a shopping adventure with the mother and her cousin. Steven and I would excitedly point out the items on our respective lists for one another. Many times they were some of the same things. (Like the year we got matching cassette recorders. We thought we were too awesome!)


(I think these are from Christmas 1968, maybe 1969. Aren't we adorable?!)

We were only born a few months apart and shared a somewhat diluted bloodline but were as close as two siblings ever dared be. Closer maybe. Our gifts to each other and the play sessions that followed were some of the best parts of Christmas for me. Some of the Christmas specials I sneak in occasionally were ones that he and I watched together during their FIRST RUN on TV!

I forget sometimes what the wonderment of childhood was like at this time of year. I know that Santa and gifts and a stocking filled to the brim aren't the point, but I had the rest of my life to find that out. I'm eternally grateful that I had those first early years to enjoy the magic and make believe and the electricity of anticipation. And that awesome time with Steven. I miss that more than I can describe. There just wasn't enough of it to last a lifetime.

But over the years, Christmas evolved into a holiday that wasn't about me. It wasn't about toys or trees or Santa. It was about the birth of the son of God. (I had 11 years of Catholic school to drive that home.) It was about others. It became about trying to recreate some of that wonderment, but in a different way, for somebody else. That's one of the reasons the program at work is now such a special and very large part of my holidays.

I got a special gift last night from the mother. The mother who rarely says anything about the work charity program except to ask how it's going or how it went each year. I was telling her I had some things to load up and take to the local agency by the house for two of our adopted families, part of "straggler" donations that seem to show up every year. I was not prepared for the comment that would spur.

"I'm proud of you," she said. "You really are a good person and you have a good heart. Don't ever change." From the mother. The mother who might freely say this to someone else about me, but almost never to me.

I don't even need a bow for that.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Comfort and Joy

I always feel sorry for people who lose loved ones around the holidays. It’s bad enough to lose someone you love at all, but it just seems doubly wrong to be plunged into that kind of grief during the season of joy.

It’s not unusual then that I felt very sorry for the families of those who had managed to lose three young people in two separate car crashes over the weekend. All three were 27-year-olds. And two of them were a married couple who left a 2-year-old behind. In the other crash, the other young man, he is the SECOND member of their family to die in this fashion. His brother died six years ago in another crash.

Last night, I found out that the young man is the son of my godparents’ neighbors. My godmother said that when they went by their house Sunday morning and saw all the cars they just assumed that they had family in for the holidays. She was stunned to get a call the next morning telling her about the young man’s death.

Please pray for that family or send good thoughts their way. They’re really going to need them.

On a much happier note, it seems it really is a season for miracles. Or, I think the people at the heart of these stories would no doubt call them that. So, now that I’ve put you in a funk, I’ll attempt to put you back in the holiday spirit. These ought to do the trick …

· Students, parents and teachers unite to help seventh-grader survive fall on the ice.
· Boy pinned between trucks is home in time for Christmas.
· Toddler up and walking just weeks after life-threatening heart surgery.
· Bin of abandoned puppies brought in from the cold get gift of good homes.
· The phenomenon that is Christmas jars strikes a Fort Myers mom.
· Australian woman becomes mom in ultimate Christmas present surprise.
· A very special Christmas gift: a new heart.

11th Hour Impromptu Shopping

OK. It can't technically be 11th hour shopping because nothing we bought last night was for this Christmas. It was for us and some gifts for NEXT Christmas. (The mother, who shops year-round and is usually ready for Christmas every August was in all her glory.)

Retailers are already offering serious markdowns. I was right. There won't be much left for day-after adventuring. We got a bunch of cute stuff at 75 percent off, some stuff at one-third off, and thanks to an email coupon, 20 percent off.

I even found scrapbooking stuff at one store, sating my disease so much that I didn’t even need to make a special trip across the street to a scrapbooking store. (Merry Christmas to ME.)

****

Stores were busy. Parking lots were full. Check-outs were mercifully short. Surprise!

As we were driving into this shopping mecca on the east side of the Mississippi -- a place I try to avoid at all costs this time of year -- we were assessing the amount of cars on each lot.

The mother: There's a lot of cars on that lot.
NV: Um, there should be. It's a used car lot.

****

The rain waited until we were leaving the last store. I had the mother wait at the entrance while I ran to fetch Pearl. I was nearly halfway across the lot, heading for Pearl, when I spotted another Pearl three aisles over.

Only when I really looked did I notice that the car I was heading for had a sunroof. Pearl does not.

****

We were almost 2/3 of the way home when a state trooper pulled up behind us. He stayed with us the whole rest of the way home up to the last turn onto our road. Mind you, this is a stretch where the speed limits are schizophrenic. One second it's 50, then it's 35, no, wait now it's 45. Uh-oh, back to 35.

The rain, a trooper on my tail, the mother riding shotgun. Yeah.

Instead of following us down that last turn, he abruptly did a U-turn in front of the convenience store at the intersection. Nice little ticket-worthy maneuver, that.

****

While the rain is annoying, it beats the foot of snow that will blanket areas to the north and west of us. The really good news is that snow showers may be as much of a white Christmas as we get.
Works for me as I’ve got a 50-mile drive on Friday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday ToolTalk: Black&Decker ReadyWrench

I own a socket set. It’s part of an ancient toolkit that dates back to the days when I had a ’74 SuperBeetle. (One of those sockets fit the spark plug EXACTLY.) I hate to drag that thing out, in part, because every time I open it, its contents end up unceremoniously dumped in the floor.

And then, I spend the next 10 minutes trying socket after socket as I guess at which one I need. As a result, the hall table legs stay wobbly longer than they should. Same for the entertainment center in the livingroom.

That changed recently when I received a Black&Decker ReadyWrench™ as a test product. This tool feeds both my love of multi-function by putting 16 different socket sizes in the palm of your hand and need for convenience by grabbing a single tool – not a whole set.

What I really liked:
· Sturdy, solid design, yet the various socket settings flip easily
· Each setting is clearly marked
· 16 sockets, one tool
What I didn’t like:
· The settings don’t lock in place. While the tool is rugged enough to stay firmly in place on a larger bolt, it slipped a bit when I tried to use it on smaller ones.



Some things it can be used on: furniture assembly (or just keeping things tightened), deck bolts, lawnmowers, air-conditioning grates, auto repair.

Conclusion: A great, last-minute gift idea you might consider for the DIYer in your life.
Availability: Most retail and online outlets, $25-$30.

Want your own? Through Jan. 31, 2010, Black & Decker is giving away a ReadyWrench™ every week! Visit the Black & Decker ReadyWrench™ Team, click enter, complete the form and enter code RWR 190 (to let them know I sent you) and you’re entered! No purchase necessary to enter or win.

Full Disclosure: I accepted an offer to join the Black & Decker New Products Team and as a result, received the product described above for evaluation. I did not receive any additional compensation for participating in this program.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Holiday Thoughts

The holidays are filled with hustle and bustle with nary a break in sight. And, if you’re a dedicated DIYer, you’re no doubt cranking on a project, all the while working against the calendar. (Unless you're me and let the mother totally wimped you out of even trying to finish the bathroom this year.)

Maybe you haven’t even had time to put a tree up yet. (Whew! That one we've got covered.)

Well, Lowe’s may be able to help you out by giving you a chance to trim the tree without dragging out a single ornament. With their Super Elftacular site, you can decorate the tree and then share it with your friends and family via email, Twitter or Facebook.

You get all the fun of hanging ornaments (with the help of elves on a variety of creative machinery) without the mess.

And, neither cats nor kids can wreck this tree! While we're on the subject of wrecks ...

As if their version of Bohemian Rhapsody wasn't enough, the Muppets are back again! This time, it's Beaker, the Swedish Chef, and my personal favorite, Animal, giving us The Carol of the Bells.
If you can watch either of these and not just totally laugh yourself silly you truly have NO sense of humor.

And my pity.

Thanks to Dominik at Fall of Because for posting Carol of the Bells on his blog!

Holiday Odds and Ends

With the charity program behind me, I can focus now on my own holiday tasks.
It occurred to me over the weekend that I’ve mailed only a handful of Christmas cards. I need to remedy that as Christmas is just a few days away! I also have to get a package in the mail to Taz – something that got lost in the shuffle that was Friday.
***
The mother and I did some shopping on the way home from our friends’ the other night and managed to find a few things for next Christmas. Many stores are already starting massive markdowns and I feared that, based on the slim inventory I’ve seen this season, there will be few bargains to be had on the day after Christmas this year.

My godmother and her daughter, neither of whom are versed in advance planning, have been scouting local stores for a “Pop the Pig” game for my 8-year-old cousin. Even though the mother had asked several times if there was anything else they needed since both she and I had been shopping regularly the past few weeks, I heard about this game for the first time last night.

I tried to find it online. And I did. (It looks kind of fun, too!) The only catch: the shipping cost to get the game before Christmas was nearly THREE TIMES its price! Initially, that meant a $30 game would cost more than $80 to ship. Digging further, I found Amazon’s deadline a little more lax, bringing shipping down to just over $65. WHAT?!

Well, it isn’t like these kids (she has a 10-year-old brother) aren’t getting a department store already, so I think it’s safe to say they won’t miss it. Much.

Thanks to Vicki at NotSo SAHM for trying to help me out, especially since she’s got plenty of madness going on at her house already after being snowed in.
***
The mother and godmother were talking about things they wanted as kids but never got. For the mother, it was a “real” dollhouse. I didn’t hear what my godmother missed out on.

For me, it was a swingset. I’ve always loved swings. Always. Other than that, Christmas morning never held any real disappointments. I was miserably spoiled – and I knew it.

Today, knowing what I know about our circumstances at the time and what the mother went through to make all that happen, I appreciate it even more. I think it's this understanding that, more than good upbringing or even real altruism, drives my elfdom each year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My New Friend

Our friends that we celebrated the holidays with yesterday got a new dog last year. Since they came to us last year -- sans dog -- we didn't get to meet him. That changed yesterday.

He's a darling Boxer who, initially was very frightened when we arrived. He was skittish and tried to run off but his pet parents blocked all the exits. I felt bad because I don't like for anything to be that afraid. But, eventually, the tide turned.


And I ended up with this: a 65-pound lap dog. Ozzie would've been SO jealous!

He IS such a sweetie. And he DID try to get in the car as we were leaving. But he is so loved by his new family, I know that would not have worked out.


But it might have been fun to see him torture Toby. Just for a little while.

Dodging the Bullet

Our first Christmas celebration, which was yesterday, was more than 50 miles from home. That doesn't sound like much to those of you who drive that regularly. But, it's about three times the average distance anyone at This D*mn House is accustomed to driving in a single sitting.

And to the mother, weather means everything. She won't go down the street if it's snowing at all. She barely will leave the house if it's raining. So I watched the weather with great interest the past few days as the storm that hammered the east sent a little rain/snow/sleet/ice into the St. Louis metro to close out the week.

We got only rain which, with the dropping temps, resulted in a bit of ice here and there. The roads, however, remained clear. We had a relatively uneventful trip there and back, except for one incident where a semi nearly ran us off the road as we entered the highway. (This same truck nearly slammed into two other cars as the driver drifted into other lanes once we were on the highway.)

I've seen the footage from out east and am feeling SO lucky that all we saw were some grassy areas and cars for sale covered with a light snow. Everyting else remained clear. I HATE snow so I feel very sorry for all of you stuck dealing it. Hope you were able to get plenty of supplies to deal with it in the meantime!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Santa Cutie

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex,
And checks.Sign your 'X' on the line,
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight.


Come and trim my Christmas tree,
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's,
I really do believe in you,
Let's see if you believe in me, too. -- "Santa Baby"


I couldn't resist. He's too stinkin' cute. (And like any good "parent," I got him to cooperate by waiting until he was barely conscious.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Round 1

What a day. But what a glorious day.

It was a mix of business ... and charity. I had back to back to back calls, another project that needed attention and then the rest of the day I was collecting , sorting, tagging and packing up the many wonderful gifts that will hopefully brighten the holidays for four families and 16 senior citizens.

This is the second year that our company gave me an empty office to work from. And I have to say, it's a d*mn good thing. There is NO WAY all this stuff would fit in my office!



And this isn't even ALL of it! (And in neither of these shots can you see everything that was there today.) It just kept coming and coming and coming. And it doesn't include the several inches high stack of gift cards. Mind-boggling.

I truly work with some of the most wonderful people on the planet. Even one of my colleagues who has been mumbling "Humbug!" practically every time I've seen him the past few weeks thrust a twenty at me earlier this week. Another colleague, who bought a wallet, some nice snack trays and a significant grocery gift card apologized to me today. "Sorry I couldn't do as much this year." Seriously? She did more than her share!

And my assistant? Oh. She's been my master-wrapper and been single-handedly keeping track of a raffle we did in conjunction with donations. D, you are the greatest!

One of my young colleagues graciously helped me load up Pearl late in the afternoon to complete the first round of deliveries. Tomorrow, he says he'll be back to help me superpack Ladybird for a trip about 15 miles from home. And, I'll be getting things ready for two colleagues to deliver to another organization AND getting ready for yet another group to come and get their donations.

Rock freakin' on!

This really is a humbling experience for me every year. I get emotionally attached to the families and individuals we're trying to help. And then I'm gratified by how generous so many of my colleagues are. And by how quickly people will jump to help with the program in whatever ways I ask.

We recently heard the results of an employee survey and it highlighted the high percentage of employees who said they were proud to work there. It's a number that has stayed pretty consistent in recent years.

It's always gratifying to be surrounded by people who are the top of their game, many of them the best in the industry. To me, it's even more awe-inspiring to be amid a bunch of really good people (even some that I've had to cause wonder about from time to time).

I don't think anyone, could be prouder than I am right now.

Another Sunrise

I'll apologize now but I couldn't help myself. Yes -- another sunrise.

Still half asleep, I was in well before the event this morning. In fact, so much in front of it, that I was absorbed in work and almost missed it. Luckily, I ducked out to grab something off the printer and looked up to see this.

Truth is, the photos don’t do it justice. It was really amazing.

Here’s hoping that this glorious dawn sets a theme for the day. I’ve got a full plate, another call that got added to this morning’s roster, and people are now showing up in rapid succession to bring in their gifts. The people I work with are every bit as incredible as this sight!




Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Shopping Trip

The elf is tired – and I only spent a part of the day on our charity program.

And it’s only just starting.

Tonight, I’ll be shopping like a madwoman for a couple of seniors and two families. (A lot of people came through with cash today. 11th hour. You gotta love it.) A lot of gifts showed up, too. I started trying to tag and sort them today.

I’ll also be shopping simultaneously tonight for our first Christmas celebration on Saturday. I can’t wait to see which item(s) I manage to forget! It’s gonna be fun.

Pearl and I will be off soon on a little adventure. All we need now are a couple of reindeer …

It's All Scarlett's Fault

The bottom line: I stayed up waaaay too late last night. I’m partly to blame. The mother’s partly to blame. And then there’s Scarlett.

TCM showed Gone With the Wind last night, the 70th anniversary of its premiere. At This D*mn House, it’s a never miss event. (Even though we have the 60th or 65th anniversary DVD and can pop it in whenever.) I was trying to do stuff for work, do stuff around the house, watch the movie and Tweet about it. I had a marvelous time, particularly Tweeting back and forth on movie lines with Jenni from ThirteenEleven.

Then, they showed the special about making the movie, and that was hard to pry myself away from. But I couldn’t have gone to bed even if I’d wanted to: the mother was in there “cleaning” (apparently I don’t do a good enough job) and playing with her dollhouse. Retirees just have NO concept of time.

But, my room is just the latest of the mother’s targets. She’s been holiday cleaning and decorating for days. And it’s been a lovely sight to behold. In spite of the fact that there’s still a utility cart in the livingroom (under plastic) and a five-gallon bucket of paint and a microwave under the dining room table, the house is looking pretty festive. See for yourself.

The mother went on a crystal bender, hanging teardrops everywhere, including a GIANT one at the base of the chandelier!

That's our nativity which is taking residence on the mantel this year.


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care ...


You knew there'd have to be an elf somewhere, right? The Victrola is a gift from me some years back. It's a repro, but it actually works!


That's our tiny tree. The mother has it jam-packed with Victoriana.


These little guys are new this year, finds from last year's day after Christmas shopping adventure.

The mother is a detailer. Even centerpieces get all spiffed for the holidays.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday ToolTalk: Black & Decker FLEX

My love of tools is widely documented. And, I think I’ve long since established what the best kind is, be it manual or power: multi-functional. So, it was with great joy that I discovered a few weeks ago that Black & Decker had sent me one of their new FLEX cordless cleaners.

This thing is like a Dustbuster – on steroids. In fact, the company says it has 40 percent more suction power than a Dustbuster. It’s compact, lightweight, has tools attached in a handy caddy, has a hose that stores neatly beneath it (and extends up to four feet!) and is easy to empty and clean. (I’d advise emptying the reusable cup and shaking out the reusable filter after each use if possible.)

I’ve put it through a variety of tasks including:
· Auto interior – First on my list had me vacuuming Pearl’s interior. A few hard to reach spots were no problem when I pulled out the crevice tool. And, dusting the dash and going over the leather was easy too, when I flipped up the built-in brush on the suction nozzle.
· Hard floors – Quick messes (spilled cereal, cat litter off Toby’s feet, sugar that popped through the bag) were no challenge on wood, laminate or ceramic tile surfaces. I tried all three.
· Carpet – We don’t have carpet upstairs anymore, just throw rugs. I attached the pet hair tool and was amazed at how much it was able to suck up. (Hair that our Kenmore vacuum left on the floor!) Even the mother, who is not easily impressed, gave it a thumb’s up.
· Stairs – One of the few places we do have carpet is on the basement stairs. It was great to be able to vacuum the stairs and not worry about losing my balance or about a full size vacuum tipping over.
· Drapes, upholstery – I flipped the brush into place and quickly took dust and lint off of velvet boxes, heavy draperies, and canvas throw pillows.
· Other hard surfaces – After we got finished putting up the tree and decorating the mantle, there were bits of debris all over. The FLEX made quick work of that mess.

One complaint – and my only complaint about the FLEX – is battery life. The operative word is “quick.” A single charge will give you somewhere between 5 and 7 minutes of fairly decent suction. Definitely enough time to do an average car interior or to suck up a small mess.

It may last another minute or two beyond that but with continually decreasing suction. That by itself wouldn’t be so bad except you then need to wait another 20 hours or so to use it again! Either increase the battery life or make an adapter you can use to finish what you’ve started.

Conclusion: Gets an A+ for performance and versatility, a C- for battery life, and a B for overall value. A great holiday gift idea as the FLEX is at home in the kitchen, the car or the garage.
Cost: $65-$70 at most stores and online retailers.

Full Disclosure: I accepted an offer to join the Black & Decker New Products Team and as a result, received the product described above for evaluation. I did not receive any additional compensation for participating in this program.

That Old Man Winter

Winter is back – regardless of what the calendar may say -- and with a vengeance. It’s a whopping 20 degrees this morning and promising to be even colder tonight and tomorrow. Fabulous! *rolls eyes* We all know how much I love it.

It is not helping my anti-morning mood. Nor is the person sitting directly behind me, stretched out across the three-seat side seats. (Instead of sitting the other direction, her head is directly behind mine and she’s having a rather animated phone conversation. Annoying is too light a word.) I’m tired from yesterday’s adventures and I’ve got a full plate ahead of me today. Here’s hoping that I’m up to it.

Tonight, I’m hoping to offer up a review of a fun new tool that Black and Decker sent me. I managed to put it through a bunch of hoops and I wanted to share what the results were just in time for Christmas gift-giving! Stay tuned.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It Ain’t Santa’s Workshop

It was a busy day with Lawrence, including a trip to our new local Lowe’s store.

Yes, that’s right, it’s been open over a month and I’d yet to step foot in it.
That all changed today. Two dimmer switches, some fancy commode base caps, and a container of hardwood floor cleaner later, Lawrence and I were on the go. Lawrence repaired the recent wind damage including putting the shutter back up on the kitchen window, attempting to fix my bedroom storm window (probably a lost cause, needs replacing), reanchoring the ceiling fan in the carport and then … we moved onto the Yankee Workshop. Or This D*mn Workshop.

And it isn’t Santa’s Workshop by any stretch. Nope. We were making … drawer fronts!

Here’s a few of what I was able to get assembled today. There’s still lots to do.


They need to have brads put through them and to get painted before being screwed and glued to the old drawer fronts. So, it will be a while before they get in place but they’re all cut and half of them are on their way to being assembled.

So, we got a whole lot done today. And man, am I feelin’ it. But, it was a good day off.

A Tale of Two Trees

Once upon a time, two crazy women waited for a store to open at 4 a.m. on a Friday in November, ostensibly to collect fabulous holiday items at killer prices. For one of those women, a pair of trees that looked like this was among those “nailed it” bargains.


But being a rather creative sort, she was not content to leave the little trees as she’d found them. No, not content at all. So discontent was she that, as a gift for one of her family members, she transformed one of said trees into this: a "kitchen tree" sporting various miniature utensils, cooking instruments and candy molds.


Yes, the mother has struck again. I think my godmother is really going to like this!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Disappearing Act

I haven't really disappeared. Although, I'll admit, that yesterday, that idea was very appealing indeed.

I had a headache that started on Friday afternoon, persisted all night, resumed on Saturday where it had left in unconsciousness, and worn on through the day and night. It finally subsided when I awoke this morning.

I was not much use to the mother yesterday as she tried to start holiday cleaning and decorating. I did what I could. It wasn't very much.

And to add to it, it stormed and stormed and stormed last night. I couldn't go get me any tea so I tried to choke down some green tea (SO not my thing) and the heat of it helped a little.

I've been of much more use today. Amazing how a headache can just waylay you. It's the continuation of this cold/flu bug whatever the hell it is that first the mother, and now I have endured. I'm hoping this is the last of it.

I'm ready to make all merry! It's starting to look like the holidays around here. And maybe, with the arrival of Lawrence tomorrow, I might even get something DONE. How awesome would THAT be? Stay tuned ...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Look Who Showed Up

Finally.


Better late than never, right?

St. Louis Sunrise

It didn't take long.

The first glimpses of the morning sky greeted me as I headed to my office. I barely had time to grab the camera before the metamorphosis that turns night into day began turning it on in a big, big way.

First, it was subtle glimpses of the dawn to come as the first colors began to blaze in the sky.
Then, they began to march under the arch, filling in beneath it almost entirely. (This is truly one of the only consolations for me during December. It's the only time of year one can catch an awesome sight like this.)

And then, color meets light as daybreak occurs.


It's a cloudy morning, so we don't get the full benefit of the sun. It never makes a grand entrance in its most complete form. But it sure lets you know that it's there just the same. And then ...

It's gone. The colors begin to settle and fade ...

Good morning, St. Louis. It's a brand new day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where There's Hope

We are a spoiled, selfish lot, most of us. We do what we want, go where we please, get those things that please us. And sometimes things just don’t go the way we’d planned. And we whine and complain. And we lose it.

Aww… had a bad day? Really? Did you? Are you sure it was all that bad? Sometimes, I want to shake people, seriously shake them – and ask those questions. And sometimes, the person I most want to shake is me.

I’m reminded of that today after reading this beautiful post by MaggieDammit (she of Okay.Fine.Dammit and founder of Violence UnSilenced.) She wrote this post in cooperation with Blog Nosh Magazine as they share stories of hope this holiday season in support of the Tide Loads of Hope program, a mobile laundromat offering laundry services to families affected by disasters.

Life can be incrediby hard and everyone has had their share of hard knocks. Sometimes, the knocks are harder and more plentiful than others. Some people get more than their share of them.


Yet some people have a sense of resiliency that boggles the mind, while others fold like a house of cards. At this time of year, I get introduced to people who fit this category, the ones who don’t fall completely apart, or, if they do, they pull it back together. They keep right on going.


I get to know them second-hand through the social workers that try to help them and their families and I get to introduce them to the people I work with and encourage them to help, too, as part of our holiday charity program.

One story struck me particularly hard this year. It’s a single mom who is raising four kids, the youngest of whom has a serious heart condition. Add to this that a few years ago the mother was shot during a crime and is still really recuperating herself.

She doesn’t say all that in the little note we get describing her family and how we might help. (I always get more info out of the caseworkers.) But she does say this: “We have been staying with friends because I lost my home and while I am so grateful to them we dream of a time that we can have a place to call our own. I have hope and mainly because of people like you who are our Holiday Angels.”

She has hope. Hope. And the part of that that gets me the most? We represent that hope to her. Us. How awesome a responsibility is that? She just wants her kids to have a nice holiday with a few toys and some needed clothing. She isn’t asking for much.

While I can’t get her into her own home, I think we can get her a few steps closer by providing some extra goods and services for her, maybe giving her the chance to sock a little money away toward having her own home again. That's my hope for her.

Because damn – if she can hope, who am I not to?

The Damage Report

The wind advisory for St. Louis ended at 6 last night.

The wind did not.

Well after midnight, it continued to howl along the back wall at This D*mn House, causing me to finally throw a blanket over a window in my bedroom to help block the air that was sailing in, courtesy of the storm window that was knocked loose during yesterday's mini-tornado. That will be a job for this weekend.

I drove this morning -- since tonight is our office holiday party -- and I have a trunkful of things to fetch at some point. It will also give me a chance to fully inspect Pearl in a lighted location and where I'm not likely to be bashed about by howling winds hurling debris. (As was the case last night when I attempted to do the same.) The reason that Pearl needs such inspection is that all but one of the blades from the outdoor fan that resides above her in the carport were ripped free. I'm hoping that she was not struck during their departure. *cringing*

One of the shutters on the kitchen window was pulled from the exterior of the house. I didn't do a full inspection of it, but it might be salvageable. At least it wasn't ripped to shreds as winds have managed to do to some exterior shutters in the past!

And, we lost one of the drain extenders. Not surprising. This morning, they said the "official" highest wind gust yesterday was 56 mph. I'm willing to bet it was 10 degrees or so more at my house where we are like an open field among the alleyways and the wind frequently has its way with the exterior.

I also need to do an inspection of the roof. I didn't see any shingles last night, but again, I was battling some really bad wind and debris while trying to check it out -- by streetlight, no less.

Tally: storm window knocked loose, shutter ripped off, fan blades snapped free. I'm hoping that's the extent of it. Here's hoping you didn't fare any worse!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Hair Up There

I frequently share details of my bus commute and I almost did so this morning. Considering that this was my first day back and that I’m still prone to the occasional hacking cough, I had a hard time jump-starting the ole brain so any attempt at that kind of writing would likely have been futile. Hours later, here goes …

The back door was pulled from my hand as if someone had run up the driveway, grabbed hold of the outer handle and pulled with every fiber of their being. It stuttered halfway and then slammed hard all the way open. Luckily, nothing was sprung, and I was able to push it closed, but not without effort.

Wind gusting over 50 mph will do that.

It was cold, brutally windy, but dry so far. Even so, I gave myself lots of time to deal with frozen car doors, icy roads or (worst case scenario) stalled engines. Mercifully, I was troubled with none of these. In fact, the ride in to the bus station was totally uneventful.

As I neared the station though, I noted the time on the clocktower: 6:48. I duly noted the bus that was beginning to snake its way out of the maze of the depot lot and onto the roadway. I can make it, I thought, and ran like hell. I made it just as the bus turned the corner.

The drivers technically don’t have to stop there, but they usually do, as a kindness to late commuters. Technically, I wasn’t late. I was early. (This was the bus before my bus.) Clearly, this driver didn’t care. He glowered at me. Glowered. He grunted his disapproval as I flashed my pass.

There were a few regulars on board, but since I rarely ride at this time, there were just as many people I didn’t recognize. One was a girl of an undeterminable age, she was so bundled up against the cold. All you could see were her tiny brown eyes peering through small square frames.

Another was a man who appeared to be around 70 a pile of bags covering his feet and the seat beside him, a cane resting against one leg. He carried on a conversation with himself the entire way across the river, stopping only occasionally for oxygen.

But the most interesting of these was a young, heavy set, multi-racial woman of roughly 25-30 with one of the most interesting hair-dos I’ve seen in a while. In the back, it was dreadlocks, short ones, but dreadlocks just the same. Both sides were teased out and just generally mussed. But it was the top that was the showstopper: a carefully crafted attempt at teasing all of the hair in the center of her head – save a few inches up front for flat bangs across her forehead – into a Mohawk!

Her head was to hair-dos what rides are to an amusement park. Never in my life have I seen so many different styles packed onto one head. She was like one of those Barbie doll beauty shop heads come to life. The product of a 5-year-old girl’s venture into cosmetology – both amusing and scary at the same time.

Unlike the rest of us, who were occasionally chilled by the driver’s penchant for leaving a door ajar long after a passenger had boarded or exited the bus, she did not move. She sat stone still, except for the thumb of her right hand which was constantly fiddling with the MP3 player screen in front of her face. No matter how many times I glanced in her direction during the next 20 or so minutes, her gaze remained fixed on that screen. She was still in that same pose when the bus trundled up to my stop.

For all I know, she’s still there now.

Blown Away

Well, I haven't been yet, but it's not for Mother Nature's lack of trying!

Thanks to Toby -- and the wind -- I've essentially been awake since about 3 a.m. The wind has been like a freight train running parallel to the back of the house (adjacent to my bed) and violently shaking the powerlines on that corner of the house.

Weatherman says we've had gusts to 51 mph. I'd venture to say that my little air vacuum of property has seen much faster than that.

Here's hoping it ends soon. But I don't think it will. By tonight, it's going to be 12 degrees. TWELVE. That is so NOT a temperature. Not in my book anyway.

At least it got me to work a few minutes earlier ...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Two Cents: DAP Caulk Products

Winter is upon us! And while the calendar still says that, technically at least, it’s fall, the time to get weatherizing is now.

I took advantage of some unseasonably warm weather in the past few weeks to do just that, using a few different products from DAP. Sealing out the cold is a great way to increase energy efficiency and to just plain old stay warm.

I used bright white DAP Dynaflex 230®, a latex sealant that can be used indoors or out, to do a bit of sealing around doors and windows. Weatherizing is important, too, especially on outdoor surfaces, so I also used it to seal up some gaps around the wood frames I’d placed around the posts recently added to our deck. The caulk went on smoothly and evenly and was a snap to clean up.


Next up, I used the clear version of DAP®3.0™ sealant to fill in some gaps on the storage shed. I chose this as a test because the shed gets hit with all of the weather changes. And since it’s a place I hope to keep dry, I thought it would be the perfect test site for this product in particular. Why?
While it takes 24 hours to completely cure, it can be exposed to water (i.e. rain) in as little as THREE hours. This was a major plus for me as I applied it on the last dry day before an evening thunderstorm touched off an entire week of rainy days! It claims to be applicable in “all weather and sub-zero applications.”

While I can’t attest to the sub-zero part, I can tell you that this stuff sets up quick. It was rained on within less than five hours of its application and when I checked on it the next day – during which it continued to rain – it remained just as smooth as when I’d applied it. No wash-off!

DAP®3.0™ sealant is paintable (with latex paint), won’t shrink or crack and is both mold and mildew resistant. (Again, we’ll follow up on this in the spring.)

Both products are available in colors (3.0 in clear or white only) and cost between $4 and $5 a tube. While that’s a little pricier than the average caulk, so far I’ve found them to be worth it. They’re available at most hardware and discount stores. To get more information on home weatherization, visit http://www.sealyourhome.info/.

Full Disclosure: I accepted an offer to join the DAP Weatherization Team and as a result, received the products described above for evaluation. I did not receive any additional compensation for participating.

Monday, December 7, 2009

And the Day was GONE!

One minute, it was 7:30 a.m. Then, it was 12:30 p.m.

Another dose of medication and back to bed. Then, it was 4:30 p.m.

Amazing how a whole day can get away!

The good news is that I do feel better. Tired still, but better. And it wasn't just helpful for me to get an ENTIRE DAY of rest. (Work didn't even call once.) Ozzie was glued to me all day and we both slept peacefully.

Tonight, it's like someone dognapped my little senior citizen (he IS nearly 12.5, mind you) and replaced him with a puppy. He keeps running around and bringing me toys and then sailing through the house at top speeds.

Tomorrow: Get ready for reviews and reviews. And maybe even a gift idea!!!

Gurgle, Sniff *Cough*!

Didn't feel well much of yesterday but soldiered on to get a few things done. And this morning ...

I feel like roadkill.

I have to get the trash outside and then I'm going to take more drugs and go back to bed. Rather than risk getting anyone at work sick, I'm staying home, at least for today.

God, I HATE this weather. (It snowed last night but it was only flurries. And yesterday was COLD! We didn't even hit 40.) Makes me cold just thinking about it.

I guess it was a really good thing that Walgreen's had the ocld meds on sale and that I stocked up! Especially considering that the mother is sick, too.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

TAZ!

On the day after Thanksgiving, Taz got spayed and declawed. I was pretty worried about this, especially considering that I was none too happy about the declawing part.

Since it had been a week since all the surgery, I sent an email to check up on her, hoping that a full week had made a lot of difference. Apparently, it had.

"Taz Marie is like she never had any surgery at all. She's her same loveable, feisty little self," came the response. That made me very happy! It seems Taz is quite taken with her new mama, cuddles with her in the morning, keeps watch while she showers and puts on make-up and pads after her into her walk-in closet and hangs out while she gets dressed before work.

She is adjusting to having a daddy, too, and likes to sit in his lap when he uses the computer.

And, we've even been extended an invitation to visit her anytime we want -- with the caveat that we "can't steal her back!"

Relief. Relief. Relief! I can't believe that in just a few short weeks, she's made such an impression and seems to have fit in as if she'd been there all along.

No new pictures ... yet. But I'm sure I'll be getting some someday soon.

Reviews on the Horizon

As Kate aptly pointed out in a recent comment, I owe some reviews. The first is on some DAP products. (There's always something around here that needs caulking. Welcome to home ownership!)We love DAP. We've used it for years, so getting to try some of their newer products has been fun.

But with the weather, not to mention this d*mnable cold, it's been difficult to get those products tried. You can't caulk outside in sub-freezing temps, not to mention when it's raining! And I've managed to use two of the three products and I need to take a few photos.

And then there's the Black and Decker stuff I literally just received. I've got to figure out how to test one of the new products I received and the other one -- I already KNOW what kinds of test to do on it, but it has to charge up first.

Some of these might definitely be great Christmas gift ideas, too! So stay tuned!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Can the Calendar Be Right?

I hesitate to actually put in writing what I hope to accomplish this weekend because it seems that every time I do that, whatever was on the agenda never gets done! But ...


I really would like to get back to that bathroom. Finish the walls and, ideally, finish the floors. Then I can finish painting and start wallpapering! It seems like forever since anything project-oriented really got done. And now, the holidays are upon us. Christmas is THREE WEEKS away. THREE WEEKS!


At some point, we'll have to do some degree of decorating. As much as I enjoy the decorations, I'm actually dreading dragging everything out. (Yeah, I know. Way to be all Scroogey!) If everything in the house were done, I wouldn't care. At least last year we had focused largely OUTSIDE so the house was in so much better shape INSIDE than this year.


Luckily, I don't think we're having guests this year so that takes of some of the pressure. Some.


Now to try to get projects back on track while coexisting with the holidays. Yeah. Welcome to the DIY Winter Wonderland!

All's Well That Ends Well

Yes, I'm completely ripping off the bard with this title, but hey, it's appropriate.

Yesterday did NOT start well.

The cold medicine that I’ve been taking has both a day and night formula. The night formula does seem to knock me out which gets me to sleep – and that’s a good thing. However, not being a morning person anyway, I am not one of those people who magically spring out of bed at the sound of the alarm, except in the rarest of circumstances. No. I rise sloooowly.

And the after effects of the medication has made that slow rise take 10 times longer than usual. And yesterday? It was more like 100 times slower. So, I was already starting out at least 20 minutes behind schedule.

Then, I had to first REMEMBER everything I needed to take to the office (including my elf costume and everything for it), find a way to successfully juggle it through our maze that is the backdoor AND still have enough hand left to lock up. Yeah.

I managed all that –only to find the driver’s side door on Ladybird frozen solid. Luckily, the passenger door opened, which let me crawl into the back seat, reach through and pull the driver door’s latch and kick like a mule from the inside until it opened. (Over the weekend, I've GOT to remember to spray the inside doors with Pam!)

Then, I had to scrape the rear window. It wasn’t an option because, unlike many mornings when I can blindly back into the alley, my neighbor’s yappy little dog (that comes into MY yard to bark AT ME) was loose. I didn’t want to risk squashing him like a bug.

By this time, I’m REALLY running late so I head through town at warp speed – only to get behind the state’s oldest legal driver piloting a big Lincoln at least 20 mph UNDER the speed limit. Lovely. I just made the bus …. And that was the turn for the better my day took.

From there, my elf suit debuted at work (Big hit, HUGE!) Donations already starting to come in. YAY! Then, I got the news about the DIY contest and when I got home, the mother says: “You got some kind of package. You didn't tell me you'd ordered anything.”

Really? I hadn't told you because, well, I hadn't!

And there sat a box from our friends at Black and Decker. (Much more on this soon. Stay tuned.)

Then, we went back out into the fray that is holiday shopping madness and found a mate for the single cookie sheet we’d bought on Black Friday (the only one there was last week, not surprising at that price) AND I scored a $65 sweater for $18. Not bad at all. The karma wheel is clearly spinning in my favor.

If only there’d been a lottery drawing last night ….

Thursday, December 3, 2009

We Have a Winner!

If at first you don’t succeed … do I need to finish this sentence? In any case, it’s good, solid advice.

Just about the time that I was revving up for a run at the grand prize after being a finalist in One Project Closer’s Before and After contest earlier this fall, I also entered one at Repair-Home.com. In both cases, the brick porch/walkway was the project of choice. I’d intended to enter several other projects in the latter because it has a whopping 23 different categories! But, as it usually does, time managed to get away from me and a handful of entries remained half-written if started at all.

I didn’t win the OPC contest.

Because I had lobbied pretty hard in that contest, I decided I was not going to bug everyone again so soon after that defeat to get votes in the Repair-Home contest. I guess it didn’t matter – I won anyway! The porch and walkway took top honors in the Landscaping category!

Found this out via email this afternoon. Well, yay me! TWO of my blogging buddies not only won a category (siding and green renovation), but they are among five finalists for a $1,000 prize. Go, Kristy (of St. Louis Folk Victorian) and Elaine (of Bless This DIY Mess)! The contest runs through Dec. 15 so go and vote for them, please.

My prize: In addition to braggin’ rights, of course, a $100 Home Depot gift card.

We LIKE those -- a lot! BOOYAH!

A Budweiser Moment

When it comes to events, I'm so accustomed to being behind the lens. It's odd then to traipse through an entire collection of photos where I appear with alarming regularity.

It's equally alarming to discover that that spot opposite the viewfinder gives you a totally different perspective on things. And, for me at least, it usually provides me with a more rounded picture of what was going on when the photo was taken. While I do remember some of the photos (all 1,000 plus from the Monkeygirls' 2006 wedding) being taken, there are others that I feel robbed of that knowledge. So, as I try to create words to accompany these photos in my scrapbook, it's much tougher than usual.

But as I point and click and edit and save, there's one emotion that is abundantly clear: love. Words are completely inadequate to express the love that I feel for the people in this photo.
Sadly, one of them is missing, but the love is there none the less. (Maria, the eighth wonder of our little world from high school, couldn't make it.) The words just don't exist or else they're not part of my vocabulary, extensive though it may be.

This photo is a twist on the "on the stairs" shot that we traditionally used to always take at any sort of a gathering that managed to draw all eight of us together. I immediately started laughing when I saw it.

That's us. The real us. The us that we may only dust off an display in the presence of one another, or maybe, if we're lucky, the us that we are comfortable being every day thanks to one another.

It's probably a combination of the holiday season and last night's full moon -- and the outpouring of support I'm already enjoying following Day One of our charity program at work -- but my heart is full and my emotions are clinging to my proverbial sleeve. So, indulge me, please.

I'm having a Budweiser moment, albeit without the Budweiser: I love you, man.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

*1000*

I looked once. I looked twice. I looked a third time. 999 posts -- that is indeed what the Blogger dashboard said. That means then that this is number 1,000.

A thousand posts. Man. That doesn't even seem possible. But, it's the sole reason I didn't post earlier. I figure something like a thousandth post is one of those things that should have some merit. So, I'm going to both claim and pass along some recognition.

First,thanks to Karen at Mom, Me and Alzheimer's and Victoria at Confessions of a New Old Homeowner, both of whom have graced me with the Superior Scribbler Award in the past week.

Part of the rules are to pass it along to five worthy bloggers. Well, just five is hard. But here goes:

*To SewWhat, because not only am I in awe of her creations, I love the stories that accompany so many of them.

*To the MonkeyGirl at Chirping Monkeys, who is taking her blog bravely in a whole new direction ... and I can't wait to see how it goes.

*To Liz at A Constructed Life who constantly makes me grin with tales from the front of motherhood, not to mention adorable photos of her progeny.

*To Brian at The Cheek of God whose love for his wife and family, his wry sense of humor, and his sucks-you-in writing style always give me a reason to smile -- and helps maintain my faith in the other half of our species.

*To Gene at DIY Insanity whose solid advice, constant encouragement and sometimes slapstick silliness can't help but be a winning combination.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I conclude my 1,000th post.

I've Been OUTED!

No, I'm not gay. (I love my female friends, but not like that.)

Or Republican.

Or Wiccan. Or one of about a dozen other things you might associate with a confession like that.

No. It's NONE of those. (And not that there's anything wrong with any one of those things.)

I'm just ... an elf. That's right. You heard (and saw) it here first. (Unless you've been over to The MonkeyGirl's blog already.) This is the MonkeyGirl's photography skills at work capturing the deft sewing talents of her mama, Sewwhat. And, the semi-secret package I had to pick up last night. It will make its formal debut during a staff meeting at work on Thursday.

What can I say? It's for charity. I'm doing this for charity. (Which means, MonkeyGirl, it would be a VERY bad thing to use those photos for blackmail. VERY bad.)

Here's hoping that a little self-deprecation goes a very loooooooong way ...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It Keeps You Runnin’

Got that Doobie Bros. song stuck in my head as I’m thinking about this evening. Note to Pearl: Honey, you’re in for a work-out!

The plan:
1) Dash home from work. Do a clothing quick change. Trade in Ladybird for Pearl.
2) Fly across the Mississippi to the MonkeyGirl’s house where we should *finally* be able to get me a disc from which I can *finally* print wedding photos. (The professional ones versus the few I was able to shoot. Being maid of honor meant I was IN a lot of the photo opps so it lessened my chances to take my own photos! Despite our best intentions, we have managed to flub this exchange on no less than a dozen different occasions. )
3) Head to Sewwhat’s, mother of MonkeyGirl, house. Pick up top-secret package. (OK. Semi-secret package at this point. Details to come. Stay tuned.)
4) Race back across the river and claim the mother.
5) Dash to Target in a neighboring town to assuage the mother’s most recent onset of non-buyer’s remorse. (You know, that “I should have bought” syndrome from which my mother suffers regularly. Sometimes I purposely throw things into a cart despite her protests because I’d rather not deal with this affliction at a later date.)

Of course, this absolutely cannot wait until the weekend. Especially because it’s these specialized type of Christmas hooks and everyone knows that the very genesis of life itself might cease to function without them. And, well, someone could come in tomorrow AND BUY EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM! *rolls eyes*

We won’t be able to go tomorrow night because it’s supposed to snow and you just know there’s no way that anticipated inch or two of snow could be gone by Thursday night. *another eye roll* (First day of December and the weather is conspiring against me already.)

Ring Up a Warm Up

Later today it’s supposed to be closer to 60, more like the first of October than December. This morning though it’s a brisk 36, a subtle reminder that December really is here and that Ole Man Winter is lurking around the corner. He’s not someone that I’m anxious to see.

I didn’t even log on last night. I did a few things around the house and lounged. I even went to bed early (early for me anyway) and got actual sleep last night. I can feel the cold starting to break up a bit. YAY!

I picked up the cell phone that I bought for the mother last night. Yet another piece of technology to challenge her with but she’s been hinting about wanting one for a while now. This way I’ll have plenty of time to program it and activate it before Christmas. And she'll have plenty of time to learn to use it -- I hope -- before she might actually need it.

So, that’s progress, right?