Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Forward ... and Back

This wasn't quite the year I thought it would be. I had hoped to get a lot more done on the house.

The reality is that not a lot got finished at all. It wasn't for lack of trying. There was a lot of activity, just not that much in the accomplishment column. But, as the mother and I so often like to say to one another, "It's gettin' there."

It's been a year filled with learning after I switched departments at work early in
Q2. It's been both gratifying and frustrating on that front.

And 2010 has been a funky year for health. The mother, Ozzie, even me ... we've all had multiple doctor visits this year. (Including a trip to the ER for me after crackin' my head open.)

But it's been a good year just the same. It's been filled with fun, friends and a bit of frivolity that we haven't always been able to enjoy. For that, I am exceedingly grateful.

So, my wish for 2011 is much like it was for 2010: A better year. Whatever levels that may need improvement, I plan to work on. And for the areas I can't control, I'll appeal for a bit of divine intervention.

While it doesn't sound like a lot to ask for, I know that it is. Even so, I'm going to ask for it and work toward it.

As we bring 2010 to a close, I wish for all of you that the year ahead holds much peace, joy and happiness -- in whatever forms it may take for you. I know that this has been a tough year for a lot of you, for a lot of different reasons. And, as I wish for me, I wish for you a better 2011.

Winter Wonderland

Today's expected high: At or near 70.

Hard to believe that only a week ago, it was snowing like crazy. It ended up looking like this.




All those people who wanted a white Christmas sure got it. It ended up being 3 to 4 inches (nothing like what you guys out east got to be sure) but it was quite cold and enough of a mess to really cause some traffic issues. A lot of churches canceled Christmas Eve services. I felt sorry for the road guys who were out in trucks instead of home for their holiday celebrations.

It started disappearing earlier this week and then, in the course of a single day, it was all but gone. Good riddance!

Today, it is rain that is falling. And not much, thankfully. At least not yet. There is a slight chance for severe storms. Well, of course there is. You can't get temperatures like this in late December without paying some kind of price. And while it may be 70 today, it's only going to be half that tomorrow.

Crossing my fingers though that Mother Nature will relent and let the year end revelers enjoy their celebrations without rain ... or ice.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shout Outs

The year is rapidly winding down as is the counter (at right) to Scrapbook Escape!

This week in particular though is filled with a lot of milestones, all from within my Circle of 8 (the eight of us from high school who still manage on some level to keep in touch). It started on Sunday with the birthday of my MEF, the MonkeyGirl. Happy birthday, g-friend! Glad your card arrived in advance.

Today marks two, count 'em two, big events, one of which has my head reelin'. The first is the wedding anniversary of the PBs. Happy anniversary you two! They're still goin' strong 21 years and four kids later. By the way, that card was unbelievable. I can't believe those are the kids. In fact, the mother, who definitely doesn't see so hot, asked me, "Don't they have four kids?" I nodded. "Well, then, who's that fifth kid down in the front?"

When I looked at the card to see what she could possibly be talking about, I noticed it was Jackson (right?) the Dog! Gotta love the mother.

But the event that really has blown my mind is that Stevie Ray was born 20 years ago today. He is the son of B., another of the eight, and he just happened to be born on the PBs' wedding anniversary. I've always thought that was pretty cool. Wow. 20 years old.

I've seen him in the past few years, and know that he now towers over all of us so I shouldn't be surprised. But I guess somewhere in the back of my mind he will always be that adorable little towhead less than waist-high. Ah, youth.

So, happy birthday and happy anniversary dear ones!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reclamation!

I’ve sat down and intended to write a post for days now. I even have pictures! And yet none of it made it to the blog.

I left work just before the early closure of the office on Thursday. (Wow. That seems a lifetime ago!) And thus began an odyssey that has had some very positive results. Instead of going straight home, I was awash in last-minute shoppers. Thankfully, I didn’t have a lot to get and most of the lines moved swiftly. Not long after I got home and got everything inside, the snow flurries started. Just a little here and there. Nothing accumulating.

Snow arrived with a vengeance on Friday so it was a good thing we didn’t have solid holiday plans. (We got somewhere between 3 and 4 inches.) Normally, we’d have been driving 40 miles each way to our celebration. Clearly, that was out. It just didn’t seem worth the risk.

We ate well on Christmas and while there was no tearing of wrapping paper, the mother and I – through the work she’d started a week or more ago and the dedicated efforts of both of us over three solid days – have reclaimed our house! Is it perfect? No. In fact, our respective rooms are a whole ‘nother story. But yes, Virginia, there IS a dining room in there! Who knew?! And the table is set with festive ware.

The livingroom, diningroom, kitchen and bath are livable again. Even the family room, still serving as the main storage area and dumping ground for supplies for all those as-yet unfinished projects, is clean and orderly. I steam-cleaned the kitchen and bath from top to bottom and other than a few debacles (like the dining room chandelier coming out of the ceiling and losing the ShopVac wand in the cold-air duct) I’d say all the efforts were worth it.

If you've ever lived in and done a renovation at a house simultaneously, one that seems to turn into months if not years, then you totally get this.

I’m tired and sore (mostly from the bruising of my left arm which got trapped while retrieving said wand from the cold-air duct) and it’s back to the grind today. But full days today and tomorrow, a shortened day on Thursday and then a three-day weekend. Aaah.

The house still has a looooong way to go, but just making it livable again has been the best present I can think of.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Weird Sleep Pattern

Brrr … Yesterday morning it was near 40 degrees. Today, it’s around 25 with a bit of a wind. It’s the beginning of what’s going to be a tricky travel weekend for anyone who is headed off to grandmother’s house to be sure.

Luckily, we aren’t going anywhere. We’ll be working on the house. I’m good with that. Tomorrow will be an early day at work and then I’ll be running to get stuff to keep us in food through the weekend. I ordered a partial honey-crusted spiral ham from Dierberg’s ( mmmm … my stomach just rumbled thinking about it) and a bunch of wonderful trimmings.

Work on the homefront continues and it’s starting to look both like a house (granted, one where there’s some work in progress) and looking a lot like Christmas, too.

The best news of all though is that when I got home last night I was greeted by a significantly different dog than when I left yesterday morning. Ozzie was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready for action! It was a beautiful sight to behold. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers for him; they sure did work!

He, the mother and Toby stayed in bed most of the day and I think it did all of them a lot of good. I was the only sleep-deprived member of the household so after having a bit of dinner, I grabbed a shower and was in bed by 8 p.m. I got back up at 2:30 and started doing some things for work that my sleep-deprived brain struggled with considerably yesterday.

It was funny because it reminded me of more than a decade ago when I first started with the company. I had to be at work at 5, so I was up every day at 3:30 a.m. It was a wicked schedule and one I’m glad to be rid of! Thank you but 5-ish is plenty early enough for me!

I was able to get some things done but I’ve still got quite a ways to go. But today, an abbreviated day tomorrow and then it’s FOUR days off. A bit of time to rest and plenty of time to focus on the house. It’s the one time of year that I can be off and not worry that clients will be weighing in one way or another!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Exhaustion

I’m not sure how much sleep I actually got last night. Not more than a few hours.

It was a vacation day and one well-spent, doing a bit of decorating outside and a bit of reclaiming the house on the inside. (So far, I have taken two trunkfuls of items to Goodwill and took an extra three bags of trash to the alley yesterday.) It’s really hard to try to live in a house and remodel it – and work full-time and cope with day to day life. I don’t recommend it.

I only got five hours of sleep the night before so I started out yesterday tired. I ran around all day doing things, went to bed at 1 and was awakened by Ozzie at 2:30. He woke me again at 3:30. After that, I never really went back to sleep. I’d left the small lamp on making it easy to check on him. He was restless at first after I plopped him into bed at my side, but then he nestled against my legs and went to sleep.

I thought he was getting better. He hadn’t really been having many of the little coughing fits the past few days but they seemed to begin again in earnest yesterday. I think part of the problem is that he wore himself out trying to follow me around the house.

My hope is that with me gone for the day, he will sleep and continue his recovery. That’s the hope. If not, I guess we’ll find ourselves back in the vet’s office for the holidays.

If you can, say a prayer that he did get some rest today and is feeling better when I get home. We all thank you for it!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Congratulations!!!

I had some issues logging into the blog yesterday so my apologies in the delayed announcement of the winner of the Black & Decker Ratcheting ReadyWrench giveaway!

Thank you to all those who entered. It was great hearing those stories! Glad to know I'm not the only one for whom sockets have always posed a challenge. One lucky poster though won't be experiencing these technical difficulties for much longer: Congratulations to kaypasa who sounds like she can put it to good use.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Be In It to Win It!

Don't forget -- my contest to win a B&D Ratcheting ReadyWrench ends TONIGHT!

You gotta be in it to win it! See my review and enter in the comments for that post.

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ToolTalk Tuesday: Black & Decker Ratcheting ReadyWrench

Last year, Black & Decker sent me their new ReadyWrench. All in all, I liked it. For me, it replaced the box o'sockets I inevitably would drag out -- and promptly drop all over the place -- when something needed tightening or untightening.

This year, Black & Decker sent me the ALL NEW Ratcheting ReadyWrench. And I have to say, I think they've got another winner here! Through the course of a week, I tried it on a variety of tasks, both planned and impromptu.

I love that this tool takes the 16 most common socket sizes and condenses them into one. No more fumbling with multiple pieces just to get to the right one. That size doesn’t fit? No problem, Just flip to the next. And when you’re done, throw it in the general toolbag, no buiky separate case needed to accommodate all the pieces!


I planned to test its furniture-tightening abilities as there are two Queen Anne pieces in particular that suffer the occasional wobbly leg. The wrench did not disappoint. In fact, with the added stability of the ratchet dial, B&D eliminated my singular complaint about the original ReadyWrench: Because the wrench doesn’t lock, when you would use it on smaller settings, it would not always find enough leverage to grip and was prone to slipping. With the ratchet, this did not occur.

You may have read a post some weeks back where I installed a Victorian mailbox. I used the original ReadyWrench to tighten the nuts on the mounting bolts. While doing my test of the next generation, I gave those nuts a few extra twists. Effortless and now locked in place!
I like the redesign, too. Where the original tool was flat, the new model is arched at palm level, making it easier to get a firm grip, for hands of almost any size. It weighs about the same as the first ReadyWrench, too – hefty, but not heavy.

I can see the Ratcheting Ready Wrench coming in handy for a dozen uses. It would be a good addition to a mechanic or carpenter’s kit whether a pro or weekend warrior.

I also tried the wrench to tighten up a recently assembled shelf. Two quick turns and it was locked tight. With Christmas just around the corner and a pile of “some assembly required” gifts in most of our futures, I see this as a very handy option!

Conclusion: This is a well thought out and very handy product. I really like the redesign, the convenience and at this price for a multi-use tool. I’ll give it an A overall.
Availability: Most retail and online outlets, $24.99 (Amazon.com) to $31.99 (Ace Hardware)

Get your own – for FREE
Full Disclosure: Last year, 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. But …

Black & Decker has given me the opportunity to share the Ratcheting ReadyWrench with you.

The rules are simple:

  • Leave a comment on this post – 1 entry (post-related ONLY, please)
  • Tweet this post’s link – 5 entries
  • Write a blog post – 15 entries (your post must contain a link to the contest post)

LET ME CLARIFY ... The MOST entries you can get is a total of 21. You need only tweet once to claim 5 entries. Leave me a link in the comments. If you write a blog post, leave me a link in the comments and you claim 15 more entries. You don't have to leave me 15 links in the comments. You won't get more than 21 entries. I LOVE getting comments ... but not spammed.

Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18.

And when you comment or post on your blog, tell me about your worst assembly nightmare. As a prompt, here’s a link to my favorite and one of my most recent fiasco requiring assembly. Good luck!

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:

To set the record straight from the get-go, I did vote for you – in the general election – but not in the primary. Truth be told, I was not happy when you won the Democratic primary. In fact, I was downright disappointed.

But I supported you. You were the party candidate. (And who else could I logically vote for? John McCain? *shudders*) Disappointed, I consoled myself with the knowledge that you are an intelligent, charismatic guy who came from middle-class stock. Being middle-class and mixed race, I know you knew what struggle is all about. It hasn’t always been easy and it seems that you genuinely care about people who come from backgrounds like yours as well as for those who were unfortunate enough to come from even less.

But what’s happened to the guy I cast my vote for in the past two years? Will we ever see him again? I know you’ve been set upon by all sides and, for the most part, I’ve sympathized with you. You inherited one hell of a mess and are faced with leading a nation who, in large part, quickly and easily deleted 2001-2008 from their memories. And, in doing so, conveniently forgot just who got us into this mess to begin with. It certainly was not you.

This tax debacle though? I have NO sympathy for you on that one. You should have been smart enough to see this coming. Everyone knew that these budget-crippling tax cuts were ending this year. Everyone. Several months ago, it might have been prudent to have started to rally the troops – long before the mid-term elections. Rally your troops, rally your base and push through the cuts as you wanted them. But this was not done.

Instead, in the weeks AFTER the mid-term, you go to the Republicans, hat in hand, and give them the keys to the kingdom. Nary a voice raised, much less a shot fired. WHAT THE HELL?!

I appreciate that you wanted to try bi-partisanship, that you wanted to not immediately give up on being able to bring everyone to the table and work together. I really do appreciate that. It’s definitely something they won’t do or even consider doing come January, so kudos to you for the effort. But pacifism, while preferable, is not always the best course.

What glimmer of hope could you possibly have interpreted from the Perennial Party of No? You tried that route for six months, a year, 18 months … and still you think you can compromise with them? Do you not see that that is completely irrational? There is no compromise with these people. Not when they’re the minority so how in the hell did you think it would be possible with them as THE MAJORITY?! How?! Did you really think that you’d strike a good agreement with them, then sit around back-slapping, smoking cigars and singing “Kumbayah?” Really?

Republicans don’t operate with democratic (small “d”) principles. How can they maintain that they do – when their interest is clearly in doing the most for the least – at the expense of the most? Was I the only person who heard them VOTE DOWN the tax cut extension for everyone making $250,000 a year or less – and then vote it down AGAIN when that threshold had been increased to $1million? If they’re so worried about a “down economy” and “reining in the deficit” how do you reconcile that with burdening people who don’t make salaries like those, or even close to them, while digging the hole a little deeper to fund lower taxes for people who don’t really need it? But now the game is truly afoot.

Now that some of the Democratic party is doing what it – and YOU, Mr. President – should have been doing a YEAR AGO. I wish that some of the anger that you’ve expressed toward them would be directed in the right direction for a change. (Maybe if you did, you’d have their support.) It’s still going to end badly. The Republicans aren’t going to renegotiate your white-flag arrangement now. And their aren’t enough Democrats with spines to make them. No. There are only two options. The deal will pass as you agreed to it, Mr. President.

Or the tax cuts will expire. This would make the Democrats look bad and the Republicans look just as bad, right? WRONG!

Because when they take over next month, that will be the first order of business: Extending the tax cuts for all. Heroes! *excuse me while I gag* That’s what they’ll declare themselves, all the while declaring you a tax-raising villain. What a great first order of business AND, as a bonus, what a great way to help nail down the self-proclaimed No. 1 item on their agenda: Making you a one-term president.

At this rate, it shouldn’t be hard.

Long Time Comin'

Yes, the blog has been dark this week. It’s been crazy.

Parties and doctors trips and pharmacy lines and then trying to do all kinds of work ahead of year-end budgets. (I am STILL fighting the sinus battle. Today, however, is the best day I’ve had in a while. We’ll see how long it lasts.)

On the homefront, the mother has been a demon this week, pitching and packing. Yes, Virginia, there IS a livingroom and dining room in there! Every night when I go home, there is less stuff in the diningroom. Hey, there’s a floor in there. Who knew?! (Note to self: Never again undertake TWO major room renos simultaneously, singlehandedly in a home in which you must also live. Why? A year later when it’s still not done, it will make you NUTS!)

Then there’s having to give Ozzie two pills a day, twice a day. I have finally managed to cut the antibiotic into thirds and his other pill in half an successfully hide them in a few scraps of Arby’s roast beef. It’s the only thing so far he won’t immediately spit back out, the little bugger! Thank you again for all the well wishes. He is getting better.

And finally, it’s Friday. It sure seemed like it was a long time comin'. As if it should have been Friday daaaaaaaaays ago. It is, however, the last week of the year that I will work five consecutive days, thanks to vacation and holidays. Next week, I work four days. The last two weeks: three days each! LOVE IT!

Don’t envy me too much though. I’ll be very busy even if I’m not at work. This weekend I’ll be trying out a new tool. And be sure to stay tuned because next week, you could WIN one!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Scrooge and Grinch Elected to Congress

In 2009, for the first time in my working life, I made less money than I had in the previous year.
Mind you, I lived through the ‘80s and again in the early ‘90s when wage freezes or miniscule raises were the norm. (At my previous job, I think I worked for three years without a raise.) Fortunately, that trend reversed in 2010. I got a meager bonus (after anticipating none at all for a second year), and my raise was more than what I’d thought it would be. Go me!

I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job when nearly 10 percent of Americans do not. And to have gotten some love from my employer increased my gratitude 10 fold. I am not a millionaire. I am not only not close to being a millionaire, I’m not even close to the earnings level for which the proposed tax cuts would expire.

So, I found this stat a little interesting: more than half of all Congressional members are millionaires. (This is particularly startling when you consider that only just about 1 percent of the whole population are millionaires.) In fact, of the 261 millionaires currently serving, eight were in the $100M + range of calculated wealth. NO WONDER they don’t want those tax rates to expire. And, at a time where the wealthy have it better than ever before with tax rates double digits below what they were for the rich in decades past.

Some of these same people – people who receive, on average, $175,000 in government salaries – are the ones who won’t support an extension of unemployment benefits – for the people who were paying those salaries when they did have jobs! And these are the same ones who voted down the proposal that would have retained the Bush tax cuts for those earning $250,000 or less while allowing all others to expire.

And while the U.S. median household income dropped 3 percent between 2008 and 2009, not so with the Congress. Oh no. Their personal wealth increased by MORE THAN 16 percent!

They rattle off a bunch of “chicken crap” (to borrow the Tan Man’s phraseology) about how small businesses will have to cut payrolls and so not allowing the already well off to keep that money will cost jobs. Let me respond to you with a new phrase, John: Bullsh*t.

Maybe you’re fool enough to buy into “trickle-down economics.” The dearly departed Ronald Reagan tried to sell that to us 30 years ago. That theory is still just as much bullsh*t today as it was then. Those tax cuts will go into savings account, trust funds and luxury items. Nary a new job in sight.

I would hope that the Senate would have had the gumption to stand up and call the proposal to not let tax cuts for millionaires expire by its right name. Yes, you guessed it: bullsh*t. But I’ve learned that instead, the Dems are caving on these tax cuts.

The only silver lining appears to be that as part of their collapse on cuts for all, the Dems are holding firm on extending unemployment benefits.

Extend tax cuts for millionaires – or else raise the tax burden on the middle class. Make part of your job denying unemployment benefits to 26 million Americans who, unlike you, don’t have jobs. Hey, Congress. Listen to yourselves. I'm waiting for these phrases to come out of your mouths this week: Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

Yeah, it’s great having Scrooge and The Grinch running the show. Can’t wait until they all take office. Only thing that could be worse would be to have Rush Limbaugh in charge. (He, who just days ago uttered the insanity that if you get food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, or are homeless you should lose your right to vote. What an AMERICAN -- not to mention CHRISTIAN -- concept. *rolls eyes* Yeah. Fat, rich, drug-addled b*stards like him should be the only ones allowed to vote.)

God help us all. He may be the only one who can.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

30 Hours Later

It's about 30 hours since we left the vet's office and things are looking up so far.

We're still waiting for the results of a series of blood tests but Ozzie presented with an elevated temperature and the doctor didn't like the congestion he heard in his chest. But ...

He got a shot of antibiotics and is now taking two different drugs twice a day. And now that he's had three doses -- he even LOOKS better and it's obvious he must feel better, too. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the lump is likely glandular and the doctor thought it could be hypothyroidism. (He could also be diabetic and he is a few pounds overweight.) But we'll wait 'til tomorrow to hear the test results. I'm feeling much more positive than I did yesterday. Sometimes it's wonderful to be wrong!

Thanks so much for all of the thoughts and prayers. Really, really appreciate those. You guys are the greatest!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Defining Bedlam

If you look up the word "bedlam" in the dictionary, I'm positive you'll find This D*mn House among the definitions it offers.

On a morning where I could have slept in a few hours, I was awakened by the dog around the time the alarm normally goes off during the week. Instead of being peaved, I've used that extra time to do a variety of tasks up to and including empty Pearl's trunk.

I've emptied it because very soon I will begin filling it. We are taking a load of items to my godmother. That will help to eradicate some of the bedlam that this house has devolved into. It's a combination of Christmas and of items for the restaurant. It won't be all of it, but it will be ALMOST all of it and I'll count that as a victory.

On Wednesday, I will be driving to the office and that will help, too, as I can empty my room of all the things I've purchased for our charity program. (It's starting to look like Santa's workshop in there.) That also means that I will have easy access to my poor excuse for a closet once more so I can empty my room of all the clothes hanging around that have amassed everywhere now that the closet is blocked.

I groan every time I walk in the unfinished bathroom and cringe staring at the half-completed kitchen. Yes folks, I've hit the boiling over point. I want my house back. The unfinished projects are like the grim reaper and depress me every time I walk in the rooms. And since it's serving as storage space, I haven't seen the dining room since February or March. Sad.

I haven't been able to reach Lawrence. I'm trying to see if I can eke a day or two out of him sometime, anytime, during the next few months. Especially since this coming Monday is the ONLY Monday I'll be working for the rest of the year. *GRINS* Just got my vacation schedule finalized. So, I'm hoping these coming long weekends will help me make this place livable again.

And of course my displeasure with the house is only marginal compared to the real source of my angst: Ozzie has to go to the vet. He's been sick off and on for a while and at the beginning of the week I discovered an ominous lump. We were finally able to secure an appointment with HIS vet, who, unfortunately, has one foot out the door toward retirement. I wouldn't have held out if it seemed like an emergency, but while it's not an emergency, I do fear it's serious.

He's 13, halfway to 14 almost, so that's part of my concern.

I know it's inevitable, but I'm not ready yet to go there yet. As a person who generally likes being right, this is one time I want to be very, very wrong.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lights

For weeks now, I’ve watched holiday decorations spring up on both sides of the river. People have taken full advantage of the unseasonably warm November we had to get outside decorations done.

Not us. I guarantee it will be freezing or below by the time we get ours up.

Take this morning for instance. It’s all of 26 with a gusting wind that is downright bone-chilling. Brrrr. December arrives, as if on cue.

It’s going to be a busy month. Lots going on at work. Lots going on at home. Add the holidays into the mix. And, of course, preparations for that wonderful annual event that is Crop Camp.

I’m tired just thinking about it all. Part of me wants to say, “Wake me when Christmas is over.”

But despite all of the activity, and even the cold, I’m buoyed by one thing: the lights. It doesn’t matter whether they’re clear or colored, blinking or stationery, I’m completely enamored with them. Apparently, I have been all my life.

The mother says that during my very first Christmas season, when I was barely five months old, I could be in the middle of a horrendous crying fit but if she took me in by the tree, it would cease at once. I’m happy to report that they still have that kind of calming effect.

As the lights burn bright in Kiener Plaza or put the huge, multi-story tree at the Metro Building aglow, or even twinkle above the entry to my own piece of downtown, I’ll be watching them. (Right now, I’m looking at the tree of huge strands of lights atop the U.S. Bank building. I’m seeing it from a distance right now. In just a few minutes, I’ll be staring at it from a window just a few blocks away.

Yeah. The lights. They’re worth getting out of bed for.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Adventures

After my pre-dawn Thanksgiving shopping adventure, I came home, stayed up watching TV and talking to the mother (after displaying all my bargains) until after 2.

Because I still had pies to bake, I was back up by 9. Once I'd baked pies, I was on my feet most of the rest of the day preparing the rest of the holiday fare. Then, it was carving up the bird and cleaning up the mess. UGH. The good news is that it's just us so there's no one to notice the state of this house.

The bad news is that it takes just as many dishes to fix the stuff as if you had a crowd. Then, I was back in bed by 8, up by midnight and out the door by 2 a.m.! We did SO awesome that I’m still stunned. We were in and out of Kohl’s in UNDER AN HOUR. Kudos to Kohl's for passing out maps, having extra staff guiding people to the sale flyer products and helping to maintain a crowd.

We got LOTS of great gifts, more stuff for charity program, a few things for ourselves and even SNAGGED A CART!!!

We went to Target immediately after but it was bedlam, so we fled. Then we went to Wal-Mart where I got more toys. The lines there were shockingly short as everyone was waiting for the 5 a.m. electronics deals to start. Then we just sat in the car in front of Michael’s waiting for them to open ‘til 6. Got out of there by 7, grabbed breakfast, came home, unloaded and I was back in bed by 10.

I slept 'til about 1:30, puttered around the house for an hour or so ... and then got dressed and went back. Yes, I'm a glutton for punishment. The mother was having a severe case of "non-buyer's remorse" where by she didn't buy something and was now really wanting it (she does this a lot; it makes me crazy). And then, an item I'd bought two of -- one as a gift, one for me -- while still in the bag, hit the floor and totally shattered. I was pretty upset.

My return trip was MUCH better than the first. Kohl's and Target were a breeze and I got all I went for. They had the much desired item at Michael's for the mother and I got a few more things for me while I was at it. I even used some of my finds to make some cards earlier tonight, so all in all, a VERY good day.

However you spent Friday, I hope it was at least as good!

Friday, November 26, 2010

And the Madness Begins

OK. That's not entirely accurate. The madness actually started in the wee hours of Thursday.

Yes, I was at Walgreens in the final minutes of Wednesday night. I've never done a Thanksgiving Day sale before. But this one was for a good cause, our charity program. They had some hard to believe deals on namebrand toys from the likes of Disney, Leap Frog and FisherPrice. Otherwise, I doubt I would have gone out at 11:30 on the night before Thanksgiving. In a thunderstorm.

I also bought a memory foam pillow for me. I haven't used it yet but I'll let you know. While others were sleeping or prepping for their Thanksgiving meal, I was in line at Walgreens. I was lucky enough to be among the early arrivals. It was strange how empty the lot was when I pulled in. It wouldn't stay that way for very long.

Fifteen minutes later, it began to resemble a mob scene. Aisles were full and I have NEVER seen carts at Walgreens SO OVERLOADED. It was nuts. It made me question how smart a choice it was to be there when two shoppers began arguing over a single candle. And I saw more than one shopper eyeballing the Leap Frog toy in my cart, the only to be found on the shelf when I got there. But shoppers were otherwise sedate and polite. No violence ensued.

I got home safe, mostly dry, and with almost all I set out for.

It would be the first phase of Adventures in Holiday Shopping.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dead Phone Strikes Again!

This time last night I was just getting home from work for the second time.

I ended up staying later so I called the mother to tell her and to remind her that I still needed to stop to pick up a few Thanksgiving-related items. The line was busy so I called her cell.

When I told her I just wanted to say I'd be late and I wasn't going to keep her because I knew she was on the phone -- except she wasn't.

DEAD PHONE strikes again!

Ordinarily this would be just frustrating. Last night it was excruciating. I had plans to work on some stuff for work that couldn't wait 'til morning and that required me to be online. Uh-oh. Of all the bleepin' times.

I made a trouble report via my cell and went through the same stupid process I had in October when this happened. This time though, the automated system acknowledged trouble on the line. Since it wasn't until the next morning that service was restored when this happened last time, I knew I couldn't take the chance.

I drove back to the office.

It actually wasn't bad. XM was treating me to some great tunes and the 20-minute trip was quick and easy. I spent a little over an hour at the office before returning home. I had worked off most of the frustration by then.

On a whim, as I fixed my dinner, I picked up the receiver of the kitchen phone. To my utter shock, there was a DIAL TONE. This is some strange and frustrating crap!

Just like last month, a tech arrived early this morning. He could not isolate the problem. So, I'm bracing myself for next time it occurs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Help

Joe has a history of abuse that compares to A Child Called It. Joe, 46, is illiterate although he made it through the 11th grade after leaving his abusive family at age 15. He and wife Mary are doing the best with what they have to parent their five children differently than he was raised. He works whenever he can find "fix it" type jobs while Mary provides in-home healthcare services for the elderly. Their income is very low to provide for a family of seven. Joe states his father burned whatever Christmas gifts they may have received from others when he was a child. You have the ability to help him once again experience the true magic and meaning of this beautiful season.

Every year, I think that there can’t be a family or person we will help that can possibly break my heart as much as a case from the year before did.

And every year, I am wrong. There is just an unbelievable amount of suffering in the world. Joe (not his real name) really hit me square in the heart this year. It’s a toss-up between his family and the plight of 10-year-old Jack (also not his real name).

Jack and his young half-sister have been bounced around from family member to family member to state care depending on the status of their drug-addicted mother. Before moving in with her latest paramour, the family was living in a car. She is now getting help and trying to establish a household for her children.

Sometime between the time I received this and last week, that all changed. The mother is back off track and the two children have been taken from her, but separated into two different homes. These kids are 10 and 7 and they’ve already seen more of the world’s nasty underbelly in their short little lives than some people will see in a lifetime. Some people have no idea how fortunate they are to be unacquainted with "the ways of the world."

These are just two of this year’s sad cases. The good news is that I know about them. The better news is that I have colleagues who are at least as touched by these stories as I am each year. And when I ask them to help me, 99.99 percent of them ask simply “what” and “when.” I am fortunate enough to be the name and face behind our office's annual holiday charity program. I’ve been active in the program for a decade now and heading it up in some way for about half those years.

I can’t fix Jack’s mother. I can’t wipe out Joe’s troubled childhood. But the best news? I can make this a MUCH brighter holiday and get 2012 off to a happier start for them. How can I do that?

Because I’m one bad*ss elf – surrounded by dozens of super-powered Santas.

(Photo of NV , yep that is yours truly, courtesy of The MonkeyGirl. Elf costume created by sewwhat – mother of The MonkeyGirl. )

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday, Monday

If I hadn’t seen so many people in my neighborhood raking leaves and/or putting up holiday decorations yesterday, I would never believe that it’s November. Especially not this morning as the mercury hovers above 65 at 6 a.m. and we’re supposed to hit the mid-70s this afternoon.

It poured briefly earlier --long enough and hard enough to wake me up. But it's not raining now so no complaints from me. I’ll take this weather for as long as I can get it. (I was SO meant to be born on a coast somewhere, a place where snow comes only in a can or on Christmas cards.)

It was windy and in the mid-60s yesterday. (The wind persists today.) I got just enough of a jump on the day yesterday to complete the touch-ups on Ladybird. I was at the carwash just before noon and buffing her down shortly thereafter. I was applying paint about an hour later.

I didn’t know that there was going to be a Phase 3 to the outdoor stuff, but there is. In between coasts of paint with Ladybird yesterday, I was working on it. I had hoped that, like our neighbors, it was going to include holiday decorations, but we didn’t get that far. It’s really looking good though. Maybe we can do that over the long weekend. (But not until the weekend because today’s summer breeze is supposed to collapse into all-out winter in just a few days. UGH.)

I forgot to change the dead batteries in my camera so I didn’t get any photos of the “new” stuff I put up yesterday, but since there’s still more to come, I guess that’s appropriate. Stay tuned…

Friday, November 19, 2010

Toys for Grown-Ups

As I sit here typing this, it is all I can do to maintain a straight face.

There is a Dyson commercial on TV and the mother is completely taken with it. “Oh, man,” I hear her say longingly. As I look up, I am delighted to see a particular canister model. Delighted because I know something that she does not: one is on its way to This D*mn House!

Yes, earlier this week, I took the Dyson plunge. (Sorry, Kenmore. You just don’t make the vacuums you once did.) I bought a DC23 canister for the mother. She doesn’t like uprights, so it had to be a canister. She’s been grumbling a lot lately about the compact Kenmore canister we’ve had for three or four years. And, I have to admit, it’s grumbling that’s completely justified.

So, it just happened that Overstock.com made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I had a 12 percent off coupon on top off a Dyson sale they were having. Bagless and with a washable filter, and for a price about $100 more than a high-end Kenmore, Eureka or Bissell, it was just too hard to refuse.

Yeah, it’s really hard to keep a straight face. Expect a review one of these days as I definitely plan to put this bad boy through the paces. I want to know I’m getting my money’s worth, that’s for sure.

This isn’t the only piece of modern technology to make its way to This D*mn House in recent weeks.

I recently marked my 10th anniversary with my employer. For this milestone, I got to choose an appreciation gift. I was torn between two things: a Kindle and a Garmin GPS system.

Some of my real world companions can attest to my lack of direction. It’s a frustration I can’t begin to describe. I’m not stupid and yet I am made to feel so on a regular basis when I try to navigate.

It was a hard choice to make but I ultimately opted for the Garmin. I didn’t expect it to arrive for a few weeks. And I thought it would come by mail. Instead, it appeared last week, on my desk! It didn’t come with a case – which is important to keep it from getting scratched up – nor with an AC adapter. I remedied that this week. In fact, the case arrived yesterday and the adapter is en route.

So, expect reviews in the not so distant reviews. Of course, where the Dyson is concerned, the most important opinion, belongs to the mother.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Friday, Right? D*mn!

It is cool and damp out this morning. (Low 40s, and intermittent showers overnight) The sky is cloudy and dark.

No stellar sunrises to witness today. And I feel like I was hit by a truck.

That’s due partly to being really, really busy (both at work and at home) this week and to a fire drill we had yesterday. That meant 19 flights of stairs out of the building, walking a few blocks and then standing around for almost 45 minutes before we were finally told we could dispatch to anywhere except back into the building. Luckily, it was getting onto lunchtime by then so I had no problem walking around the corner.

Returning to the building with my lunch, I was greeted by an overflow crowd outside. People were packing the few elevator cars in use and it was going to be a while. So, like an idiot, I jumped when building maintenance opened the first floor door to the stairs. (The other door where we exited leads outside and you can’t get back in there.)

I got a little winded after the first eight floors, but hey, I can handle it. (Did I mention I’m still recovering from bronchitis? Did I mention I’m an idiot?) I stopped briefly and sipped my soda before taking on two more flights.

10th Floor. Massive coughing fit ensued. Sipped my soda a bit more in between bouts. A few minutes later, I trudged up two more flights. At 12, I said screw it and used my access card. (It’s the first floor where I could exit the stairwell.) At the elevator, a nearly empty car picked me up. Hooray!

Today, I’m feeling leg muscles I haven’t noticed in a while. Moron.

Add to that that later in the day I hit the floor, directly on my tailbone. (Retrieving a pen that bounced beneath my desk.) I didn’t have as much chair behind me as I thought, thanks to bumping it with my foot on the way back up, and it promptly skidded out from beneath me. Crash! Yeah, grace isn’t one of my attributes.

It’s OK for the most part but bending down or getting up out of a seated position isn’t too much fun.

With any luck, I can make it through today without doing myself any more harm -- and maybe even manage to accomplish something. Here’s hoping …

Monday, November 15, 2010

Little Jobs

I certainly wasn't ready to tackle anything big, but after getting a full night's rest on Friday and an almost uninterrupted night's sleep on Saturday (just ONE coughing fit), I was ready to do something. And it's not like there aren't a thousand things competing for my attention. But, I wasn't ready for anything big.

So, I managed to complete a few small jobs on Sunday afternoon.

Job 1: Drain and roll up hose. We've been flirting with freezing for more than a week so I had disconnected the hose and temporarily stuck a bag over the outside faucet. I knew I'd want to use it after clearing leaves on Saturday to clean the mower down so I had been waiting to complete this task. Well, yesterday, I finally carefully disconnected and drained each of the two hoses then reconnected and carefully wound them onto the hose reel. I then got the faucet cover out of the shed and put it in place. Now I just need to remember to turn the shut-off downstairs to OFF for the season!

Job 2: Replace shutter. You may recall that the storm of a few weeks ago ripped a shutter off of the house, just outside my room. Well, while I was off last week, I helped the mother retrieve a spare she had saved from a previous shutter-shredding incident some years back. It had been carefully stowed in the laundry room's walk-in closet. Getting to it was quite the task but I did it. She did some caulk and paint touch-up in the meantime as this shutter is clearly a "survivor," the poor thing. At least it's something to put up back there until we look into all new shutters. (Maybe next spring. We'll see.) I got the ladder out and removed the screws that were still in place and then carefully balanced myself, the drill and the shutter until I got it aligned. Zip, zip, zip with the drill and the conspicuously bare spot along my window was bare no more!

Job 3: Take down clock. Several months ago, the mother and I had purchased a train-station style clock/thermometer to put outside. I didn't get it up there though until late September/early October. I'm not even sure I blogged about it. So, I guess you will get to see it after the mother gives it a bit o'gold accenting.

Job 4: Trash clearing. I broke up the old shutter and gathered up some of the rock bags from the mother's landscaping adventures on Friday and got everything ready to put out with the trash. (Monday is trash day.)

I was done in less than 90 minutes with everything, including the time it took to put the ladder away. Like I said, nothing big. But, at least some things got done!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Rainy Saturday

Thanks to the wind, the leaves are back ... after we'd only just cleared them. It's a vicious, vicious cycle.

After keeping me up most of the night Thursday, I was able to sleep through the night last night. It was SO thrilling. I was so grateful as I was feeling bad again yesterday.

This morning, I grabbed some breakfast so I can get my meds down. Gotta kick this stuff once and for all.

The wind is pretty steady and it's damp outside. It is near 60 right now but it's supposed to drop into the 40s during the afternoon. Not looking forward to that. Going to do a little running around today and then REST is on the agenda.

Got lots to get done tomorrow ...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's Lucky Number Is ...

19.


That's the number that Random.org's True Random Number generator gave me to decide the winner of the Mother's Birthday Giveaway. (I select winners this way not to be impersonal but to be impartial as I know some of you in the real world!) Rest assured that my influence is nil. Random is random. All I do is tell it to give me a single number out of the total number of entries.


Before I tell you to whom that magic number belongs, I would like to thank ALL of you who entered. A total of 31 of you generated nearly 150 entries, making this our most successful contest to date. I genuinely appreciate the blog post mentions (there were four) and all of the tweeting that was going on out there. (There was lots!!!)


So, I offer my congratulations to GLORIA at the The Little Red House with the White Porch. Further proof that it only takes one entry to win AND that you can't win if you don't enter! Just a little advice to consider for future giveaways.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans' Day!

Military service is a pretty thankless job. This is particularly true for those who are thousands and thousands of miles away from home.

The military is quick to sign you up and train you. Even pay for your education. Unfortunately, they're just as quick to get you killed.

It sickens me to think of the many families this year who will visit our most recent veteran military force ... in a cemetery. There is nothing anyone can say to thank them enough for making the ultimate sacrifice. My heart truly goes out to you.

I sympathize, too, with the many families who still have loved ones in harm's way. Theirs is also a great sacrifice.

But sometimes, these vets are lucky enough to return to their families. Check out this link and you can see some of the greetings they got from their four-legged family members. (The first one is amazing and the one with the two Yorkies had me laughing hysterically.)

It isn't enough really, but THANK YOU, to the millions who have given their all to protect this country in its brief history. Thank you to those who serve us still today. And thank you to the families of these brave men and women for letting them do it.

I salute you all.

Completing Phase 2

I felt crappy on Sunday but it was the mother's birthday, it was nice outside and the job really wouldn't take that long ... so I persevered.

I've already noted that there were TWO projects involved in upgrading the front of the house. By now, you've likely seen Phase One, or the new mailbox. Remember? It looks like this.
OK. There's some things I want you to notice. See the old mailbox, next to the front door? Train your eyes around that section in particular. Focus in right there. Got it? OK. Now that you have that picture in your mind, take a look at this.
Yes, it's a new custom address plaque! The mother and I have been talking about one of these for YEARS. She decided to make the leap a few weeks ago. I went on a scouting mission and this was one of two styles that I liked. (It was the only style the mother liked that was available in anything other than GINORMOUS size.)

The mother threw me with the color choice (black and gold). See, I thought she had intended to paint the mailbox white. When I questioned this, she looked at me as if I had horns growing out of my head.

"White?! NO! I'm leaving it black. So, the plaque should be black and gold, to pick up the brass."

OK. Fine. Whatever. When I ordered it at Home Depot (using a gift certificate I'd received as a prize for the brick porch and walkway last year), I chose the black and gold option. I was dubious, but I did it. The plaque wasn't supposed to arrive until this week -- but it came in just 10 days!

When it arrived, I thought it was very pretty. But I was going to have to see it ON THE HOUSE before I made a final judgment. So, here's the new mailbox ... and the new address sign, together. Ah, very nice. They complement each other quite well. (Please ignore the paint touch-ups around the plaque. They were still wet when I took this picture!)

Then, the other day, the mother did this. Wait. Before you look, look again at the new mailbox. Got it? OK. Now look ...

The mother is FOREVER touching something up. Now you can see the gold and does it ever make it POP! OK. I'm with you, sort of. Accent colors really DO make a lot of difference.

Here's a view of the detail on the side. Believe me, it was a WHOLE lot of detail as she did this all the way around. It took hours. And way more patience than I could ever muster.

I think it looks pretty cool. And, now that the plaque is up, I'm starting to get the idea ...

Maybe I can finally see where she was going with all this. After weeks of wondering and hours of just "doing,"to get the job completed, I can officially render a verdict: I LIKE it!

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Routine

As I walked out the back door I was greeted by a single twinkling star in one half of the sky ... and the earliest streaks of dawn -- in the form of pale orange and purple stripes -- in the other.

The star winked at me occasionally as I drove across town. Man, it felt good to be back in a routine! We spend so much of our lives wanting OUT of our routines. Maybe that's the upside of getting pulled out of them in a negative way like illness.

The sunrise was SPECTACULAR and I felt like it was a sign that this is going to be a good day!

I still have to catch you up on Phase 2 ... and on some touches the mother has added to the mailbox. Promise to do both soon.

Just a reminder. If you haven't entered the Mother's Birthday Giveaway, scroll down to that post and DO IT NOW. I'm loving hearing about everyone's holiday shopping progress!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On the Mend

I've fallen silent and the blog is neglected. Sorry.

Spending a second consecutive sick day at home. Went to the doctor yesterday and came home armed with drugs to find a raging sinus infection AND bronchitis. I feel a little better after the first few doses. Of course, with all the coughing, it's hard to tell.

It's heartening to see how many of you are getting in on the giveaway! Make sure you do if you haven't already. I'll be announcing a winner on Friday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Mother's Birthday Giveaway!

Today is the Mother's birthday -- but the gift could be for YOU!

We spent the day running around yesterday because today I'm going to get to Phase 2 of the outside project. (It's her birthday; it's what she wants.) We were stunned by how packed everywhere was yesterday. You'd think there were only a handful of holiday shopping days left instead of nearly 50. Of course, the mother has all of our holiday gifts WRAPPED and almost all of them tagged.(I'm making more tags and it's turned into a joint effort between us.) But ... onto the giveaway!

In honor of the Mother's birthday, I'm giving away a $65 gift certificate to CSN Stores. That means you have more than 250 stores to select from to spend it. Consider it a jump on YOUR holiday shopping!

You could put it toward a drop leaf table, maybe a little something for the little ones in your life or maybe, taking a tip from This D*mn House, a new mailbox!

The contest will end at 11:59 PM Central Time on Thursday, Nov. 11. So get entered now. Here's how:
Leave a comment on this post – 1 entry (post-related ONLY, please)
· Tweet this post’s link – 5 entries
· Write a blog post – 15 entries (your post must contain a link to the contest post)

LET ME CLARIFY ... The MOST entries you can get is a total of 21. You need only tweet once to claim 5 entries. Leave me a link in the comments. If you write a blog post, leave me a link in the comments and you claim 15 more entries. You don't have to leave me 15 links in the comments. You won't get more than 21 entries. I LOVE getting comments (and thank you for the many kind birthday wishes for the mother and get wells for me) ... but not spammed!

In your comment, I'd love to hear how much of your holiday shopping YOU have done already.

One fine print note: The gift certificate DOES NOT cover shipping costs.

Can't wait to hear your responses. GOOD LUCK!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Less Than 50 Shopping Days Left ...

Get a jump on your holiday shopping with Kmart’s Annual Family & Friends Event this weekend.

Kmart’s Annual Family and Friends Event is back online and in stores Nov. 7. Hardware, electronics, auto and more are 10 percent off for this once-a-year sale (includes regular-priced and clearance items).

With winter just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to finish up repairs and other projects, and it’s not too early to think about holiday gifting. Think TOOLS people! They carry the Craftsman line. Just sayin' ...

The nationwide sale will be online and in stores all day Sunday, except in a handful of states. In Utah, Idaho and New Jersey, the event will be today, Saturday, Nov. 6.

Kmart’s Family & Friends discount will be applied automatically at online checkout but for in-store purchases, please print out the flyer here: http://www.kmart.com/social

Visit www.kmart.com/social for more details.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Sorry Shape of Things

"To assume that just because I would like to elect a Republican president in 2012, or because he would like to have a second term beginning in 2012, we aren't going to do anything together between now and then just isn't correct."Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Kentucky

Yeah. And monkeys just might fly out of my butt, too. I guess he had a momentary memory lapse about some of his previous quotes and all of his actions in the past almost two years. Add this to the volumes of evidence for how full of sh*t politicians truly are.

I ask you, Mr. McConnell, “WHAT HAVE YOU TRIED TO DO TOGETHER THUS FAR?!” Um, nothing. Even when there were things that HAD YOUR IDEAS, you still said NO! Only friggin’ word in your limited caveman vocabulary apparently. And you’re SO worried about small businesses … that you voted against money to help them, too.

Meanwhile, you’re all about taking back health care reform AND Wall Street reform so that the banks can continue their sadistic screwing of the little guy. Oh yeah. You’re SO concerned and so ready to be cooperative. *Utters really nasty word that I won’t publish because people’s mothers read this blog.*


And I ask you, Mr. President, “WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO GO TO THESE PEOPLE, HAT IN HAND?!”

Get some balls, dude. I’m on YOUR side – and you’re beyond pissing me off. Way beyond. You are a smart guy. Use that brain for just a second: They DID NOT want to work with you when you had the majority. What in name of all that’s holy makes you even think they might want to be bipartisan NOW?!

I’m waiting for a rational answer because I have been unable to determine one on my own. You TRIED that tact for your first 18 months in office. IT DID NOT WORK. They shot you down at every corner. No. No. And HELL NO!

Let’s just say I’m in a very foul mood. In part, because this election has dismayed me. (Speaker Boehner. Really? Two words when uttered consecutively that make me want to retch. Gag.) And in part, because I’m fighting a sinus infection that kept me home yesterday. And I’m not going to make it through the whole day today. I feel like crap. So I’m really feisty and easily agitated. With what little voice I had yesterday, I was yelling at the television.

It would be hilarious if this wasn’t what was going to dictate all of our lives for at least the next two years. And maybe beyond – unless the Mayans are right and the whole place goes kablooey in December 2012.

I guess the good news is that people were at least smart enough to steer clear of Sharron Angle (even if it wasn’t by much), Christine “I Didn’t Go To Yale” O’Donnell, and Rich Iott (as in I ought not to dress up like a Nazi). But they did elect Rand Paul. *shaking head*

That’s what U.S. politics has reduced me to: yelling at the TV. Sad.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mystery Revealed: Victorian Mailbox

So, the previously described mystery project was installing this Victorian mailbox that the mother has wanted for ages. For the record, the old mailbox, still visible in this shot, has since been removed.

I'm not sure why this became a priority in the past month (I've long since stopped questioning the enigma that is the mother's logic) but this and one other project -- still to come -- have become something akin to life and death.

Pearl wore a hard hat for the initial task of Phase 1: Getting the mailbox home. The mother was SURE it would fit in the trunk or that the box section would detach from the base. (I should know better than to trust the mother on anything where measurements matter. I guess I never learn.) She was wrong on both counts.

While the box would have easily gone into Ladybird's trunk, it was nothing doing with Pearl. I finally had to spread blankets out over the backseat and then carefully wrap the box in another blanket to get it home without damaging my leather!

You should be seeing Phase 2 of this project quite soon as it arrived via UPS on Monday -- more than a week ahead of the date that was given to me when I ordered it! I'm looking forward to it as I can't wait to see how it all comes together.

As with most things I attempt, I wasn't really sure how I was going to do this. So, I just did it.

I dug the hole, threw in a few 1x2s scraps to make a rectangle, got the hose ready and threw in a bag of concrete. I ultimately used both of the 50 pound bags I bought. Once I got the concrete to a healthy consistency, I pulled out the 1x2s (which was a mistake because you can see how I sloshed concrete out onto the grass as I did a few more good mixes with the shovel).

I used a trowel to level the concrete out as best I could. Once level, I used my handy template to carefully insert each of the four hex bolts HEADFIRST into the concrete. (If I had it to do over again, I would have exposed more of the bolt threads as the bolts eventually sank a little farther into the concrete than I would have liked.) When it came time hours later to set the mailbox into place, I held my breath.

But all four bolts aligned with the holes in the base of the mailbox!!! As I mentioned though, two of them sank deeper than I'd hoped so the coordinating nuts are only tentatively in place. The other two, however, are rock solid.

So, in the past few weeks, I've added bases to the front porch columns and installed a mailbox in the yard. That wraps up Phase 1. Here's the end result.


Stay tuned for Phase 2 and ... for ANOTHER fabulous giveaway in honor of the mother's birthday this weekend!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

E-Day

I was going to write a completely different post. Instead, I’m going to keep it simple.

Think Ernest Hemingway. (Short sentences. Limited vocabulary. While the man was a great reporter and a good writer, I still think he is one of the most overrated in history. But I digress.)

After all, this country was founded on some pretty simple principles. Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness. Most of these have remained in tact through the centuries.

We can still freely speak our minds. And, unless you’re certain politicians (or would-be politicians) who don’t really get the Constitution and its respective amendments (isn't THAT scary?!), we still have a variety of rights.

I’m grateful for that.

But it’s Election Day. And it’s important to think about a few things.

I’m a little concerned by groups using the phrase “take our country back.” I’ve heard several pundits refer to this and query “Take it back – from what?”

But in my mind, it’s a different and even scarier question altogether: “Take it back – to where?” And if you listen carefully to their thinly-veiled platforms, it’s pretty easy to get an answer. Back to a time when slavery was the law of the land and women weren’t too far from that state.

Back to a time of intolerance and in-fighting. Back to a time where the haves and have-nots were more than clearly divided. Back to a time when there was NO middle class. None. You either had money. Or you didn’t. And God help you if you didn’t. That's not a direction we should continue to swirl toward.

Back to a time when you could pull yourself up by your bootstraps – if you were lucky enough to have boots. Back … I don’t want to see the country go back. Can’t we instead go forward? Let’s go forward, always remembering where we’ve been.

Yeah, the choices seem pretty clear to me. But that’s my view. This is my blog and that's my stand. I'll respectfully agree to disagree with you or gladly count you among the like-minded.

However you choose to vote is up to you. I’ll respect that and expect you to do the same. Being able to cast that ballot is a right, not a privilege. At least in our country. (And don’t forget, it’s a right that women haven’t yet had for a century.) Getting you that right cost a lot of lives and a whole lot of sacrifice. Don’t let it all go to waste.

There’s an awful lot at stake, all around this great country. And your vote could be the one that splits a decision. Before you cast your vote though, disgusted though you may be, I ask you to remember something that too many voters seem to have forgotten already: 2000-2008. It's as if they are a fairy story that never occurred. At least for some of us.

But I remember them. I remember them well. I know we didn't get into the current mess overnight. And it's important to acknowledge that we aren't getting out of it overnight either. It's important to recall who keeps saying "no" ... and, more importantly, why.

So go out and speak your mind in the ballot box.

I am.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween, Part 2: Oz the Gweat and Tewwible

I finished my mystery project at dusk on Halloween.

While I was still outside, I lit our jack-o-lantern. (It was still burning when I left for work this morning. Tradition keeps it burning until first light on Nov. 1. Yeah, that’s those superstitious Irish Catholics for you. )

We were the only house in our block on our side of the street to leave a porch light on for trick-or-treaters. (This really annoys me about my neighbors, but oh well.) The neighbors across the street lit jack-o-lanterns and turned on their porch light. This was their first Halloween in the house (having moved in at Christmas last year), so I was delighted to see them brightly lit!

We had a grand total of six trick-or-treaters. The neighbors across the street had at least 8-10 more than that, none of whom bothered to cross the street. (It is a four-lane roadway but when we were kids, that would NEVER have stopped us!)

Our trick-or-treaters arrived in two groups of three. The first trio were stair-step boys, all dressed as pirates. “We’re pirates!,” the eldest exclaimed, waving a sword. In the background, his dad was coaching him: “What else are you supposed to say?” He thought for a moment and then the boy of about 5 lunged toward the door again shouting, “We’re pirates!” The mother and I both lost it.

It was about this moment that Oz the Gweat and Tewwible awoke from his comfy spot on the loveseat and decided to charge the door barking at full volume. (If you’re a Stephen King fan, you’ll recognize this reference from Pet Sematary.) The youngest of the pirate trio began to cry and back away. I quickly scooped him up and deposited him in my room as the mother reassured the youngster.

I chided Ozzie before closing the door behind me. Stupid d*mn little dog, terrorizing kids. And on Halloween, no less! Doesn’t he just look like he’s saying: “What? They were KNOCKING on MY door!”


But I couldn’t stay mad at him for long. He’s too freakin’ cute!

The small photo is an "extreme close-up" as little Mr. Oz LOVES to put his nose on virtually everything, including the camera!


It's kind of blurry -- for obvious reasons -- but you can still see that it's him.


How I Spent Halloween

It was a nice day, sunny with temps in the low 60s. The wind kicked up occasionally, which proved problematic and times (and which left me with a nasty windburn) otherwise, it was beautiful.

I had some stops to make early in the day both to get some materials for the project du jour and to check out shutter options. (You might recall we lost one recently to a spate of nasty wind.)

When I got home, I chose this hardware and made this template. I realize it looks pretty primitive, but it did the trick.


Template in hand, I marked out the location, double-checked it with the mother and then started digging. Yes, I dug a hole in my yard on Halloween!

Think I threw someone in there? BWAAAHHAAAHHAAAA!



Well, I didn't. If you see the size of the hole, you'd have to conclude that they would either have to be cremated or a midget to fit!


So, no. No one was harmed in the making of this project. Except maybe me. (A little stiff today from all of the associated activity AND giving Pearl a spit-shine.) I really didn't have any idea what I was doing. Strictly guesswork like it almost always is. Even the Internet didn't offer me much in the way of assistance on this one. But, it turned out! Mostly.

Any guesses about what I did? Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Holi-Daze

It’s almost Halloween. Want to hear something really scary?

There are only 57 shopping days left until Christmas! (See, I told you it was scary.) Did that frighten you enough? It did me.

When I heard on the news the other day the sobering figure that there were just 60 days until Christmas, it made me jump. Yes, Halloween has become a calendar milestone in the countdown to Christmas.

That can only mean one thing: the mother is hurriedly wrapping packages. And, oh, is she ever!
According to her, having made a bazillion bows last year really helped out. She’s only had to make a few. This seems to be an activity that she likes though. And God knows she is more than skilled at it.

October is also a springboard to another countdown, too. This one occurs shortly after the start of every year: Scrapbook Escape (otherwise known as Crop Camp!) In fact, I received my official 2011 invite just last night! This brings up some very important questions. MG, will you be roomie? Mama Martha, Harriet, are you all ready to go?

But then, there’s also the most important question of all: ARE WE THERE YET?!

Soon, I’ll be putting up the annual counter to see just how far off we are …

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Storm Damage

The wind roared like a freight train before during and after Monday night’s/early yesterday’s storm. I tried to sleep in yesterday but was awakened several times by rattling window or banging wires, courtesy of its force.

On the news last night, they said that we had wind gusts up to 62 mph. I believe it. The wind stayed steady all day at 20-30 mph. Leaves, branches and other debris swirled wildly about. This meant I couldn’t work on the new project. (Hopefully, that gets done this weekend. It’s supposed to be quite nice.) The winds are to stay with us through tomorrow. I think we have a sustained wind of about 15 mph this morning.

So I lined out clothes (getting rid of yet another small bag of giveaways) and took three new pair of slacks to the sewing lady for hemming. And I did laundry.

I thought we had come through the storm unscathed. But then, as I was coming back from the seamstress, I spied two pieces of plastic laying in the yard. Upon closer inspection, I found one of the shutters from my bedroom window (at the back of the house) laying in the rocks beneath. Uh-oh.

That baby had been shorn clean off the screws. I think I even know when it happened and it wasn’t during the height of the storm but several hours later. I heard a hellacious noise outside my window but when I looked out, I didn’t see anything. (The shutter had fallen too close to the house for me to see it.)

It’s not the first time this has happened. And I don’t even think this is the first time it has happened to this shutter. This time, however, it’s beyond repair. It’s going to require a new pair. Bummer. (I think this is the third or fourth new pair we’ve had to buy over the years.)

After watching the news last night though and seeing all of the felled trees and power lines, some with trees crashing through roofs or falling onto cars, I’m feeling pretty fortunate.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Addressing Baseless Accusations

(Author's note: For nearly a week, I've tried to get the photos for this post to load on Blogger. FINALLY they did so today!)

For more than two years, the porch columns at This D*mn House were without bases.

When I bricked the porch during the summer of 2008, I tried desperately to pry up the existing column bases. Nothin' doing. One of them even started to bend as if to break. So, I left them alone and worked around them.

The result was that the columns became mounted upon little collection pools for every hard rain. And, during the fall, leaves would even fill the gaps. So, last year, I tried to order some PVC bases. Why PVC? Two key reasons.

First, it would stand the weather. And second, it would be easy to cut in half. (With the columns in place, there's no other way to get a base onto them!)

It took two tries to get these -- and they still weren't really what I wanted.

They were too big. I tried to return them and get a smaller set but the company didn't want to do this a second time. If I returned them, they were going to charge me not only the return shipping but also a restocking fee which combined would wipe out any reimbursement. I didn't find that acceptable.

I know they think I'm a moron and perhaps I am. They did not, however, at any point, really understand what I was doing. So, to steal a line from Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

And so the bases sat downstairs for nearly a year. Until last Friday.

I decided to try an idea I had to use them. I started by filling in the gaping holes with concrete. That was one of the easiest parts though. It would take a great deal more time and an inordinate amount of patience to finish the job.

My next job was to measure and mark and then carefully cut each of the bases in half.
That was pretty easy, too, thanks to my Firestorm cordless jigsaw. Chop. Chop. Done!

This was where things started to get hairy. Now that the base was in half, I had to carefully fit it around the column, trying to ensure it was both level and aligned where I had cut it.

Once I'd done that, I ran some Loctite along the inside of the base and then along the cut marks on the outside to keep the pieces together. After that, I had to run some mortar mix beneath the base to lock it into place. Then, came the superiorly fun part: filling the gapping base with mortar -- without slopping it all over the column or the base itself.

It was painstaking and required a level of patience that is generally beyond my capacity. Somehow, I managed it. The result was this.

While the mortar set up, I occupied myself with starting on the other column base. Once it was in place, though not filled, I caulked the first base along the cut marks. I then laid one final layer of mortar in the first base and smoothed it out as best I could. By then, it was getting dark so I had to call it a day.

Because the forecast had included the threat of rain, I had to wrap both columns in plastic. Luckily, the rain never came. The next day, I managed to get both columns completed ... except they need a bit of touch up. I put painter's tape around the columns to avoid glomming paint on them (I'm not a good painter) and then painted over the now filled-in bases. The result was this.
You see that little rim of concrete around the column? That's what was left after I took off the painter's tape. The mother is going to touch it up.

When she does, I'll get a new photo of the front with both bases in place. I was worried that even with the paint, it wouldn't look right, but I think it really looks good. Even the mother said it did and she rarely likes anything!

Monday, October 25, 2010

This Haunted D*mn House

It occurs to me that I never shared our Halloween decorations. And now that it's less than a week away, I guess I'd better get moving on that!

We do so love Halloween. Can you tell?


This is at the back door. It's probably the decoration I see the most as I go out the back way more than the front.

But if you're looking from the street, here's the whole arrangmement. I have spent a bit of time out here in the past few days. Quite a bit. (Pay attention because this will have bearing on a future post.)

But let's get a little closer.



I'm not sure if we'll get any trick-or-treaters on Sunday, but we're enjoying the decos for now.

Just Long Enough

Mother Nature relented just long enough for the mother and I to get home and get things inside the house. I was commenting on the timing of this after spying a very dark cloud headed our way when lightning suddenly lit up the sky, accenting my words.

For the next few hours, it would alternately thunder and lightning, spit rain and pour down. And finally, it stopped. The project I finished yesterday had plenty of time to set up though so I was pleased. I wasn't out on the road so go ahead and rain.

Sunday's adventure was successful and I now have another project on my plate ... and yet another waiting in the wings. Just when I thought that I was done outside -- apparently not.

Stay tuned ...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Winterize

It’s October. We’re enjoying unseasonable weather. But we’re doing so on borrowed time. Old Man Winter will arrive in a heartbeat.

His only redeeming quality is that he temporarily relieves me of yard work. That’s it. Otherwise, I hate that dude. Seriously.

Before he gets here and officially settles in, there are a handful of things that really need doing around any house. At my house in particular, these are on the list. They might be good reminders for your house, too:

Furnace check. Get a certified professional to give your furnace a once-over. Vacuum around your unit and either clean out your ducts yourself or call in professionals. Put in a clean filter before kicking it on.
Wood watch. If you have wood surfaces, make sure you give them a thorough inspection. Make sure that these surfaces are sealed or painted. Bare wood will disintegrate under winter’s harsh conditions. If you find damage or failing surfaces, repair them. Caulk and paint can be your best friends. If the damage is too severe, they may only provide a Band-Aid. If it’s not bad, you have nipped it in the bud and shored it up to survive the season. You’ll be glad you did in the spring!
Tap off. Make sure that you drain your hose and cover any outside taps before temperatures drop below freezing. If you have a shut-off controlling it, shut it off. You can get by with a few nights in the 30s, but don’t play around and wait until continuous 20-degree temps. That’s begging for a water line to burst. Wipe off any excess water from the faucet before attaching a cover.
Machine maintenance. Once you’ve ground up the last of autumn’s leaves, make sure that you thoroughly clean your lawnmower. I always give it an extra good washing (including its air filter) and drain it of both gasoline and oil. Then, when it’s time for the first spring cut, I just add oil and gas and we’re off and running. Make sure you don’t leave rechargeable batteries for weed eaters and other tools out in the cold. Store them in a warm, dry place. Whether you use them or not, give them a charge every month or so during the winter to keep them live.
Cover up. Either stow away or cover your barbecue grill and outdoor furniture. It will keep them looking new and performing well for years to come.

What do you do to get ready for winter?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mother Nature Relents

I got my wish! Not only did it not rain during the day Friday, it didn't rain that night AND ... it didn't rain TODAY either. And ... it may not rain until tomorrow night.

That gave me the time I needed to finish a project I started on Friday. (More to come on this ...)

The weather has been glorious, even if the wind has been a little rambunctious. The good news on that front is that it has blown many of the leaves out of the yard!

The mother had some kind of epiphany today and has settled on two things she wants for the front of the house (spurred, I'm sure, by my project). I spent some time this morning exploring the first of the two and then this afternoon she made a phone call and we're off to deal with it tomorrow.

I'm tired. I'm grubby. But, it's been a good couple of days. Will have lots and lots more to talk about soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

R-A-I-N, a Four-Letter Word

October has been a beautiful month for the most part. I was so hoping that the fabulous weather would last just a few more days. Just a few more. Especially considering that today is my Friday.

Today’s my Friday. Today’s my Friday. Today’s my Friday. *singing*

For now, the forecast declares tomorrow the last in that string of nice days. While the temperatures are going to remain very mild (70s by day, upper 40s/low 50s by night) it’s supposed to rain Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. In other words, except for tomorrow, the entire time that I’m off. That just completely sucks.

I know we need the rain but do you think you could give me TWO CONSECUTIVE dry days? I really need them. While my outdoor to-do list is dwindling, there are still some things on it and I’m bucking to get them done.

Here’s hoping that the forecast shifts, just a little …

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blessed Visions

Some days just don't get off to the best of starts. And then other days, like yesterday, you can't help but think it's going to be a really great day. (Like when you see colors like these starting to creep up and reflect off of the buildings to your right as you type ...)

Ah ... the things I get to see sometimes!

I saw those pinks and oranges reflecting off a building not seen in these shots. That made me get up out of my chair and crane my neck back toward the river.

It was so intense and so beautiful that the view from my window wasn't going to give the complete effect. I walked down to a neighboring conference room. (Which was mercifully empty because, well, it was barely 7 a.m.!)

Yeah. That's what greeted me. There just aren't good enough adjectives.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ToolTalk Tuesday: Werner 17’ Multi-Position, Telescoping Ladder

I don’t like heights. I’m not exactly afraid of them, I just prefer to have my feet planted on terra firma. Unfortunately, This D*mn House comes with some maintenance areas where you just have to shimmy up a ladder. For the longest time, I have beaten a path to my neighbor’s door for either his 12-foot fiberglass step ladder or his really enormous aluminum extension ladder.

But last fall, I did what any self-respecting, home-owning, DIY tool freak would: I bought my own d*mn ladder.

This decision was not made easily. After all, the house is tiny, sans garage, and the storage shed is loaded. Where would I keep an extension ladder?! A trip to one of the hardware stores (I say one of them, because both Home Depot and Lowe’s carry the Werner line and I honestly don’t remember which one I first saw it at) revealed the Werner 17’ Multi-Position, Telescoping Ladder. This ladder can reach 17 feet, yet it folds down to a size that is SHORTER than me! (And almost no one and nothing is shorter than me.)

A free shipping deal from Amazon, combined with a price drop, sealed it. This baby arrived at my door for less than $126, total! It logged some time in the foyer before ultimately being moved to the basement … until last weekend. I had to reach that cupola and vent that you see in my banner – atop the carport. The six-foot step ladder doesn’t get you there. Or, at least not me. So, I decided it was time to crack the plastic on my Werner ladder.

I’ll admit that I was a little apprehensive. I’d read some reviews that had decried multi-function ladders as hard to use. The reality for me was that they were wrong. Once I determined that pushed in meant “open” and popped out meant “locked” for the circle on either side, it was good. The ladder also had two “J locks” which allow an extension at either end to slide freely to the desired height and then be secured in place. Easy peasy.

Because it is essentially two ladders connected together, you have controls for either end. It can be a step ladder. It can be an extension ladder. It can be a multi-level ladder, adjustable for stair use. Or, you can take the two ladders apart and use them as scaffold supports! It has 20 different position/height combinations in all.

Because the hallway leading into the basement is so tall, I know this ladder will be getting used there. It was also convenient to bend into a step ladder to do some work under the carport.

When the mother went to move it, she said: “Hey, that’s heavy.” And it is definitely heavier than it looks. At about 40 pounds, an errant wind gust isn’t likely to tip it over. Its load capacity rating is for 300 pounds for each side.
Because it really is two ladders melded into one, you can climb either side or, if needed, have someone else standing on the other side! Handy for many jobs.
Even so, it is not too heavy which made turning it into an extension infinitely easier than what I’m used to. But for that same reason, I did have to grit my teeth a little as I climbed past the mid-section which has just a bit of bounce to it when extended.

Pros: A sturdy, extremely versatile extension ladder that takes up no more space than a standard six-footer. Easy to change positions and fold down for storage; secure locking mechanisms.

Cons: Heavy (which is also a plus, making it less prone to tipping than standard aluminum ladders); rungs are incredibly narrow making standing for extended periods uncomfortable. (If you can get to a double step though and still reach, this isn’t the case.)

Conclusion: This is a fabulous product considering its host of features and affordable price. An A+ for versatility, B- for comfort, A for ease of use and portability, and an A- overall.

Availability: Home Depot and Lowe’s (but often online only for both stores), Amazon.com, other Werner dealers. Prices currently range from $139 to $189. Best advice – wait for a deal that involves free shipping or an online deal that lets you pick it up in-store for free.