Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I won’t get too comfortable with it though. The heat and humidity are supposed to return for the holiday weekend. I’m bracing myself.
I got the later bus this morning for the first time in more than a week (before I started going in at dawn regularly) and it is surprisingly full. I think many people were affected by the loss of the bus I used to ride, coupled with the bus immediately before this one not going all the way to St. Louis. Hence, one full bus.
When I got home the other night, I was stunned to find the barricades along the road in front of my house gone! I had assumed they were going to do our side of the street once they’d finished the other, but apparently not. Now the lanes on our side – from carrying all the traffic for a number of weeks – are in horrid shape. Fixing them is even more of a desperate need than before.
The good news is that getting in and out of the driveway is back to the normal challenge associated with a four-lane roadway. It was actually strange to pull in last night instead of taking to the sidestreets, coming in the alley, driving through part of the yard and onto the driveway and backing in.
Thanks to the pleasant weather, I went for a long walk yesterday covering at least 18 blocks. I stopped by the St. Louis Landmarks Association. I’m pretty sure I’m going to join as their mission seems to align with my feelings on preservation.
Meanwhile, construction continues in earnest to relocate the entrance to One City Centre as that project directly ties into the renovation of the old St. Louis Centre mall into a parking garage. If you look closely, you can see that a “skytube” connecting the building to the garage across the street has been dismantled. I’m not sure if they’re both coming down or not.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Something made its way UNDER the fence, which was pretty impressive considering that there is so little clearance. I brought the mower to a halt in just enough time to see a little bunny go darting across the yard and disappear. I soon discovered that he spends a lot of time under one of our bushes or under the neighbors’ pine tree. I started putting lettuce and some seeds at or near both spots.
Several weeks later, he’s now a regular – and getting bigger all the time.
This means, of course, that I’ve also had to regularly watch for and chase away Big and Bigger, the two neighborhood cats who do their own version of wildlife watch only the wildlife ceases to be alive at the end of it for them. These cats are two versions of the same creature, identical in features, except Bigger is about 75 percent bigger than Big, who is huge! (While I'd never hurt them, beyond pinging them with the occasional rock to get their attention, they don't need to know that.)
The mother and I regularly report daily sightings of the bunny to each other and fret when there are none. We both diligently also watch for Big and Bigger. Then, when we came home the other night just after dark, I saw something in the yard.
“Look, it’s the bunny,” I said. Except when I looked, he looked quite small, only marginally bigger than when he’d first arrived. Clearly, this was not the same bunny.
We now have TWO bunnies and they apparently know each other. When I took the trash out yesterday, Bunny 1 was contentedly eating clover in the sidelot. In the middle of the driveway, about 10 feet from the first, Bunny 2 was standing on hind legs staring at me as I approached.
When I got home from work last night, Bunny 1 was eating clover near the neighbors’ pine tree.
As I opened the backdoor, I noticed some movement beneath the tree: It was Bunny 2! So, we are now the guardians of two yard bunnies for the summer.
Note to Big and Bigger: STAY AWAY FROM THIS D*MN HOUSE! They’re MY bunnies. MINE! Got it?
Monday, June 28, 2010
I noticed a group of boys coming down the alley who looked to be about middle school aged. Kids come down the alley all the time so it barely got my attention. But when they paused behind the double panel of our fence I waited.
By this time, I was closer to the front yard than the back, making it both hard to see and almost impossible to intervene. A bigger boy soon joined the crowd and they started straight down the alley, away from This D*mn House. As they went, one knocked over my neighbors’ trash can. Its contents spilled in the alley.
Before I could get close enough to yell, they were already two or more doors down. Another picked up that neighbors’ trash can and hefted it into a yard across the way. As I started toward the backyard, headlights appeared at the end of the alley where the fearsome foursome were headed. I couldn’t see what had transpired.
As I walked to the edge of our driveway, trying to see what was going on down the alley, I noticed a strange light under my neighbor across the alley’s truck. As I walked toward it to investigate, I found a solar yard light, absent its base, laying broken in the alley. A fully intact one was under my neighbor’s truck, its light fully functioning. I recognized these as belonging to my next door neighbor. I put both lights on his back porch. (He was apparently at work.)
As I made my way back to my yard, I saw a minivan rounding the corner. It slowed and then stopped. “Hey, did you see those kids go by?” a young guy called to me.
“I sure did,” I said.
Turns out, he’s a teacher who lives across the road and a few blocks over. He said he knew all of those kids and that he had seen them a little bit ago and wondered what they were up to so he came to see. I told him about the trashcans and the lights. He told me the name and the address of the “ringleader” just in case anything else happened. The biggest boy lives with his grandmother and "she probably has no idea what he's out doing," the teacher said. He said he was going to call the police as soon as he got home and rat out all of the little hoodlums.
I doubt that it will do any good, but I’m glad he was doing it. We both laughed, commenting what our respective mothers would have done to us had we been caught vandalizing people’s property. It's summer and they're bored but when did kids get the idea that destroying property was a way to relieve it? Or, I guess, when and where did they get the idea that it's OK to do this?
Growing up, we weren't saints but we didn't willfully destroy people's property either.
Guess I’m going to be patrolling regularly for a while.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
As I read off every name who was represented in the drawing, he barked enthusiastically. He even helped me as I typed in the list and assigned the appropriate numbers for each entrant. Random.org used those numbers to randomly select a winner. And that winner was …
Sarah from Our New House! She is the winner of a Black & Decker 24V Cordless Trimmer/Edger. With a new home and a new baby I’m sure this will come in handy. I’m glad that you are already familiar with what this bad boy can do, Sarah, courtesy of your neighbor. Now you can grin and flash your own thanks to our friends at Black & Decker.
Sarah maximized her chances by Tweeting the link AND writing a blog post about the contest. We also need to send some link love out to Leah at Storybook Ranch who was the other of the two contestants to maximize her odds.
Congratulations, Sarah! Please be sure to send your name and address to me at thisdmnhouse at gmail.com.
Some of you Tweeted and several more left comments. Thank you to everyone who participated in this milestone event. And thanks for the many birthday wishes for Ozzie.
I’m hoping for both many more birthdays for my furbaby AND many more giveaways in the future.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Later, we were supposed to go to a work event but it soooo hot. The mother just wouldn't make it. And if she's miserable, I'm destined to be doubly so so we'll just stay home.
I bypassed yard work even though I was up very early this morning. It's not as bad thanks to all the heat, so I guess it can wait a week, unless we don't get the rain we're supposed to tomorrow. I ended up going back to bed. It was nice to just sleep.
But then I dreamed about the Gulf oil disaster last night. It really shook me up and it was hard to go back to sleep. I ended up sitting with the mother for a few hours and watching a movie until about 8 a.m. Even then, it was hard to go back to sleep because by that time, the sun was fully situated in the sky, peeking in around the shades, and my room was about 5 degrees warmer.
When I went for a walk yesterday through downtown, I passed an interesting vehicle. It's not at all unusual to see trucks and small cars lining the streets with cardboard signs stuck on the dash to help keep them safe from the metermaids. DELIVERY VEHICLE they declare. Sometimes they still get tickets.
This one was different though. It was a newer model Mercedes convertible. I did a doubletake, reading the sign once more. Yes, it said DELIVERY VEHICLE. Seems like a rather interesting choice for delivering things.
Clearly, I'm in the wrong line of work.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Oh c'mon, you know you want that Black & Decker 24V cordless trimmer/edger. Hurry now and enter. Click here to post a comment and get your name in the hat. Tweet the contest link and get 5 entries; blog about it and earn 15 more chances.
You've got until midnight tomorrow night. Good luck!
You can finally -- for the first time in more than 25 years -- see the entire face of this building again! (Way back when, it was Stix, Baer & Fuller. Later, it became Dillard's.) But it's now back. And there are construction workers everywhere. Can't wait to see its restoration!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
It is actually pleasant this morning. Still warm, still a little humid, but just a little. I’d say that’s due to the showers that must have happened overnight because everywhere is dotted with little leftover puddles. It’s nothing like yesterday though.
Yesterday morning when I walked outside it was quite literally like walking directly into a wall. It was SO oppressively hot, even at 6 a.m. And it got no better through the course of the day. Temps in the upper 90s with a heat index well over 100 degrees. Waiting for the bus last night, I could barely breathe. I swear I don’t know how people work outside all day in weather like this.
I walked down to the Culinaria despite the heat. I wanted the salad that, at least for the first few days, I was forcing myself to eat. I’ll take that as a good sign. Maybe there’s hope for me yet!
Everyone else must have had the same idea because they were out of lettuce! I stood around and waited for some though with several other people. They were out of the fresh fruit medley, too, something I REALLY do love but unfortunately, they weren’t bringing any more of that out.
I bought some cantaloupe slices instead. (Luckily, I DO love fruit and always have.) Since I only ate some of those, I still have some left for breakfast today. Yummy! Summer fruits are awesome!
I got a compliment from a client yesterday who is notorious for NOT giving compliments. That’s a surefire way to buoy your spirits, especially as we prepare to cross the finish line of a big project that has been under way for about three months. This odd mix of pain and joy resulting from something that you created has got to be something akin to childbirth!
Looks like companies are paying attention to social media.
Last week I tweeted about Charter’s Video on Demand service going in and out. (I restarted the same movie no less than six times!) It wasn’t until a few days later that I discovered it, but Charter had tweeted back asking if it was working yet …
Then, last night I got an email from GM. They have been a strong presence during the past few months on a Cadillac forum that I joined right around a year ago. That forum is filled with good information (how I found out that it was the purge valve solenoid that made Pearl’s engine light come on and how I knew that a recall notice on brake lines was in my future).
Apparently, after all of the lost GM dealerships (including the one where Pearl came from though I won’t consider that a great loss) Cadillac has singled out certain GM dealers for warranty and other service work. This is good to know as I have to have that recall work done AND Pearl will need an oil change soon.
The better news is that I won’t have to pay for my next oil change. Or any oil changes (up to 4) through next June! This means that I will have owned a car for more than two years (by next June) and never have paid for an oil change. Can I hear a BOO-YAH?!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
What drew me immediately were its ball and claw feet. They perfectly match the legs on our coffee table in the living room. And, since I spend most of the time on the loveseat -- where I am frequently prevented from stretching out by Ozzie, this would be the ideal thing for me!
We're not taken with its current mauve velvet so that will be a future project eventually. (Yeah, I've got nothing better to do right now. *rolls eyes*) But, it's in remarkably good shape. And for $20, I couldn't very well just leave it sitting out there now could I?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
In a first of its kind contest at This D*mn House, a Black & Decker 24 Volt Cordless String Trimmer/ Edger with PowerCommand™ is up for grabs. Ozzie and I are both very excited about giving something away! And thanks to our friends at Black & Decker for making it possible.
You just read my review (and if you haven’t, go do it now) so you know what you might be getting! Believe me, you want this. Take it from someone who HATES yard work!
There are THREE ways to get your name in the hat. Please note, while you can do all three, you can do each ONLY ONCE (for a maximum total of 21 entries). Here’s how to enter:
· Leave a comment on this post – 1 entry (post-related, please)
· Tweet this post’s link – 5 entries
· Write a blog post – 15 entries (your post must contain a link to the contest post)
For the latter two, please let me know you’ve done it! (You could even make THAT your comment on this post and earn another entry.)
What you get: the trimmer/edger, charger and 24V battery with a retail value of $139.Contest ends at 12:01 a.m. CDT Sunday, June 27. What are you waiting for? Good luck!
That’s due in part to our friends at Black & Decker who recently sent me their new 24 Volt Cordless String Trimmer/ Edger with PowerCommand™ to review.
I love the idea of not dragging an extension cord around and of not having to continually try to keep it from underfoot while I do. I wondered though just how this model (NST1024) would stack up compared to both the corded version I own and the gas-powered models I have in the past.
Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised. This is one powerful little machine that made quick work of my admittedly overgrown walkway. See for yourself.
What I Liked:
- If you need to trim around a utility pole, the trimmer mode is great. But, to do routine maintenance edging, push a button, turn the shaft and your trimmer converts to an edger. It’s two tools in one! And both work great.
- A wide 13-inch cutting path
- A 9000 rpm motor and gear drive deliver up to TWICE the power of 18V trimmers.
- The Power Command feature gives you an extra little oomph for particularly stubborn grass and weeds, even when they’re damp. (This helped a lot on the one part of my driveway I completed.)
- If you already own other B&D tools which use 18V or 24V slide batteries, they’re interchangeable! (As someone currently in the market for a combo drill/saw set, I LOVE this notion.) To me, this is the kind of thought that more manufacturers need to put into their product designs.
- Though it’s definitely heavier than its corded counterpart, even with the battery in place, it’s not as bulky as I’d expected. A comfort grip on the handle lives up to its name – even for my small hands.
- It’s an environmentally friendly tool: Unlike gas trimmers, the 24 Volt Cordless String Trimmer/Edger releases zero harmful emissions into the air – and its charging system is certified by Energy Star®. This is part of a whole B&D campaign. Check it out!
What I Didn’t Like:
- I have a decent-sized yard, and granted, it was overgrown. Still, I only barely managed to complete what I’d started – not what I’d hoped to – by babying the battery along. A quick charger – not the 9-hour version the trimmer comes with – or a second battery is a must. Especially in this price range.
- While the auto-feed feature is nice and I didn’t have a single jam, I thought it chewed through string very quickly. Luckily, I had some bulk line on hand. And the good news: THAT didn’t jam either – something that always seems to happen with string trimmers.
The initial charge requires about 11 hours – so plan ahead. (I made this mistake thinking it would be closer to six hours and had to delay my plans.) Otherwise, it’s a quick set-up right out of the box.
But if you’re someone who reads instructions/manuals like I do, pay attention: the manual that came with mine alluded to a “hardware” bag in the parts list, presumably the four hex screws needed to attach the adjustable handle. There’s even a small hex wrench that clips into the power trigger base. Convenient! But … the screws aren’t in a bag – they’re already installed in the auxiliary handle! You need to remove them and then put them back once the handle is in place. Silly instructions!
Conclusion: This is a really great product with one caveat: It really should come with a one-hour charger or second battery. For this point, and this point only, I’ll give it an A- overall. Everything else, from performance to convenience, to ease of use and comfort level … strictly A+ material. This is a tool I wouldn’t want to be without. That it’s environmentally friendly and plays well with its B&D tool brethren through interchangeable batteries are huge pluses, too.
Availability: Most retail and online outlets, $115-$139.
Would you like a cordless string trimmer of your own … for free? Stay tuned.
Full Disclosure: I received two of the product described above for evaluation and distribution. I did not receive any additional compensation for participating in this program.
Monday, June 21, 2010
I noticed that the same few pair of shoes that I wear to work during warmer weather have pretty much had it or else are getting rather battered. Two pair were purchased at least five years ago; another pair is two years old. The last one falls somewhere in between.
I don’t usually see shoes that I must have but I’ve seen more than my share in the past two weeks. The beauty is I paid less than $40 for every pair. In fact, I paid $30—or less, in most cases $25 or less after a 15 percent off everything sale– for every pair! As you can see, these are all in my “signature” colors: black and brown.
They’re black patent and I love the wedge heel. They are uber comfortable, too. The mother thinks they’re ugly. I get compliments at work though every time I’ve worn them. I’m not exactly a fashionista so that’s pretty cool.
The brown heels were the other “must haves.”
I’d seen a pair in the store in another color and wished they were black – or brown. Then, I got a “hat trick” email earlier this month in which they were on sale, I got a discount off my total purchase and shipping was free. To top it off, those brown thong sandals just above them? Well, I got those in-store, too, but the same ad that had the heels also had the sandals in BLACK. (You can see them at the top of the first photo.) They didn't have them in the store in my size, but they did online. Yes, pinch me!
So, I’m all set for summer now and probably for a summer or two to come. Unless something else comes along. I can justify it. I do have a birthday next month …
Sunday, June 20, 2010
At some point, he decided he didn’t want to work anymore so he just didn’t. This left Young Tom and the eldest of his sisters to work to help raise their younger siblings.
I think this left a horrible blemish on my grandfather. It made him cold and hard. It certainly didn’t foster or enhance his own paternal skills. While he always worked and provided and was a pinnacle of responsibility, he was neither demonstrative nor kind. In fact, he was outright mean.
I know that my other grandfather, who died years before I was thought of, fell just as short of being father of the year material but in different ways. He, too, worked very hard. But both he and his paycheck went directly to the neighborhood bar on payday. Alcohol fueled a violent streak which he happily brought home to his wife and children. He eventually disappeared from the scene, making an attempt to reconcile with his children in the years before his death.
It was a pattern my own father would emulate – when he bothered to be around at all. I remember when I was about 19 or 20, he attempted to explain his frequent absences thusly: “I just didn’t know what to do with a little kid.” I guess I was a little inconvenient small and helpless. Once raised, I could serve a purpose for him. Hmm.
Parenting is hard. It’s not something you have to have children to know. I watch my friends, my family and occasionally, my colleagues, struggle with their parental roles. I overheard part of a conversation recently in which one of my colleagues remarked to a new parent: “It’s a constant struggle and no matter how you raise them, all you can do is hope that it stuck.”
God bless my Uncle Ron – who is not even really my uncle but a cousin, by marriage – for showing me that not all men resent their children. That there were men who genuinely enjoyed them and who would rather have died themselves than to ever do anything that would harm them. He was the first of a few men I’ve considered father figures in my life. I’ve been very fortunate to collect a few more and to see dozens of other men who exemplify what I think a good father is.
Several years ago, I remember seeing this phrase for the first time: Anyone can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.
This is so very true! I well up sometimes when I see the tenderness in which some of the dads I know speak of their children. It’s heart-warming to see even the gruffest of rough-and-tumble guys nearly shed a tear when speaking of their progeny.
That’s because a dad loves his children. There is nothing he wouldn’t do to secure their happiness.
This doesn’t mean he’ll always let them get away with murder. Just sometimes. He wants to ensure they get the whole right versus wrong thing. He knows that discipline is important, but, as with most things in life, is best in moderation.
And abandon his children? Never! An army couldn’t keep a real dad away from his kids.
Dads worry. They question their abilities. They keep jobs they hate or take others that they don’t particularly like because it will give their children “the best of everything.” They consider the sacrifice a fair trade. The best dads though learn that the most important things they can ever give to their children are their love and their time.
Even when they’re tired, they will make that dance recital, coach Little League, or devote their undivided attention to reading a bedtime story. They don’t have to pretend to be interested in your science project or latest boyfriend. They don’t have to pretend because they are interested. And that boyfriend? He’d best watch his step.
Dads know that parenting isn’t a job that ends when a child is 18 or 21 or 50. It’s a lifelong commitment. They never let it seem or feel like a job, though, because it’s all about their kids. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. (It’s appropriate to pity men who never learn this lesson.)
A shout to those who have lost dads they loved. With some of you, I’ve shared your pain and am so sorry for what you’ve lost. I can only imagine the void that's been left. Know though that you were blessed and keep these precious men alive in your hearts.
And finally, here’s to all those wonderful men who make fatherhood look so d*mn easy. Your children love you more than you know. (Note to kids: So TELL your dad already! Not just today but every day.)
Happy Father’s Day.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Then, the mother wanted to go shopping so we did. (Have I mentioned lately how much I freakin' love Kohl's? LOVE and ADORE them, thank you very much. I've been on a shoe-buying kick for summer the past two weeks and I think I've gotten not only some righteous deals but some kick-ass foot fashion to replace my ailing summer supply. I will have to share these in another post.)
When we got home it was about 95 -- not very conducive to yard work so I thought I'll wait til about 5ish. Uh-huh.
This was the sky at a little after five.
Hmmm ... do you think that yardwork got done?
Friday, June 18, 2010
I’m the person who, when the participants on House Hunters whine because there’s “no yard” or “not enough grass,” flashes a big smile and gives two thumbs up. Yard maintenance bites it.
I come from a long line of farmers. Some of them had quite a bit of land and even had hired hands. Farming is a very noble and necessary profession; I just clearly got skipped by the “plays with dirt” gene of my ancestors.
That’s why I think that when it comes to prettying up a property with greenery, less is genuinely more. Here are five reasons to make my case:
1. Maintenance. While it’s good exercise – and a great excuse to play with tools – it’s also a tremendous time suck. I wish I could reclaim some of the many hours I’ve spend doing yard work. There are so many better things I might have been doing. And, for those of you who don’t do it yourself, it’s a tremendous wallet suck, too!
2. Expense. Shrubs and plants aren’t cheap. Maintaining them and keeping critters away from them can be a full-time and costly job, too. Even landscaping rock and timbers have gotten rather pricey the past few years. Bottom line: the less you have, the less it costs.
3. Water usage. Those of you who live in the west know it’s crazy to try and keep lush vegetation properly watered. It’s just against your climate in most cases. And, your water supply is more challenged than in other parts of the country. But even those of us who only occasionally face water issues during especially hot summers should be interested in conserving this vital resource.
4. Blocking the view. Have you ever seen a house covered in vegetation – and wondered what it looked like underneath? The "clutter" approach to landscaping is always a bad idea, mainly on two counts. First, it hampers your home’s overall curb appeal. And second, no one, including you, knows what all that growth is covering up. It can easily mask damage to your home’s exterior that needs attention!
5. Safety. Large shrubs –or overgrown ones— can serve as cover for both peepers and thieves. This can be particularly dangerous as the vegetation can keep them out of sight while they break in your house.
There are other alternatives that are both environmentally friendly and attractive. You might consider:
- Low-maintenance bulbs, surrounded by a rock garden.
- Dwarf varieties of shrubs which need only an occasional trim and that do well in direct sunlight or shade (whichever your yard best affords).
- Paving stones to build smalls walls or walkways.
- Solar-powered lights.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
And, just days ago, right here in metro St. Louis, a letter carrier was struck and killed by lightning. So, severe weather season is already well under way.
I used to have a little battery-operated television that came in pretty handy during the many weather-related (and some not) power outages we seem to have around here. Now that TV has gone HD though, it’s essentially worthless. And, unless you have a smartphone with Web access there aren’t many ways to tell what’s going on when severe weather strikes and the lights go out.
Few things can be more frustrating when you’ve successfully located a flashlight or radio in the dark only to find the batteries dead. We’ve had very good luck with hand-crank flashlights. So, I decided to invest in a hand-crank radio, too. I chose the American Red Cross MICROLINK FR160 by the Eton Corporation.
I was immediately shocked by its size: it’s very small, barely filling up my hand. But don’t be fooled by its size. While it was DOA out of the package, a few handcranks later and both the radio and the flashlight came to life.
The hand crank tucks conveniently into the back of the radio, an antenna folds across the top and the light is housed in one side of the radio which features not only AM/FM but also NOAA Weather band.
While 90 seconds of cranking can get you 30-40 minutes of low-volume radio play, you can also let it charge by its solar panel. Just 8-10 hours of daylight yields three to five hours of run time. This option makes it a particularly handy item to take camping, to the beach or on a picnic. And, it can be VERY convenient, if you find an evening power outage lapsing into the next day.
Using a USB cord for your cell phone, you can also use it to crank some air time. (Caveat: DO NOT use this on an iPhone. I’d say don't use it on a smartphone AT ALL. You risk damage.) This is the weakest feature of this unit by far. You need to crank 10-15 minutes to get a single minute just on a featureless phone and if you tried to use it on a smartphone, you'd likely fry the phone! Hopefully, if you’re in this kind of an emergency situation, there’s a much easier way to call for help!
Overall, this is a good product to have. It’s small and convenient to take on the go and easy to stow away when you don’t need it. Some cursory cranking can get you both light and radio broadcasts – without batteries. The solar option is a big plus, too, for longer term use.
At $30 (available online at Home Depot, REI, others) it costs enough that you will want to get some use out of it. But, it's inexpensive enough that when you do need it, you'll consider it money well spent.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Well, yes, you say. Of course they are. There are cones and other barriers, obvious signs of both digging and patching. Surely, they're working on it. Making progress.
I say, "Not so fast." Pits like this line the three-block area. When they first left an open pit like this a few blocks down, the mother and I were off and running on a shopping trip when we noticed it as we drove by. Granted, it was in one of the two closed lanes but it had no warnings. No cones or anything were in front of it. Very bad, with sunset coming because at dark, you wouldn't see these until you're up on them!
And when we returned a few hours later there was indeed a car in it, cop car on the scene. I think it's about an 8-inch drop, enough to do some serious front-end damage to be sure. At the very least, if you came down on some of the protruding rebar, you could easily take out a tire or two!
I keep thinking that one day when I come home the barriers will be gone, everything filled and fixed. Yeah, I'm a dreamer.
Funny thing is they don't seem to want to work on it during nice weather. No. They waited the other day until we were in the middle of a hellatious thunderstorm to try and resume work. How crazy is that?
The good news is that, so far, no one else has managed to land in one of these ditches that I've seen. This one, though, is a hazard to me because if I am pulling out of my driveway and want to turn left, I have to go across the two lanes of active traffic, turn around in the two closed lanes, carefully merge with oncoming traffic, all while navigating around the various barriers AND being careful not to let a tire even brush that upper left corner! It really is a pain in the butt to pull off.
The even better news is that once they finish this part, they can close the other side (directly in front of my house!) and start working there. Sigh.
It's going to be a long summer indeed.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Went for a nice walk yesterday at lunch (which introduced me to MORE historic buildings for you to see and hear about this summer) and I got to see this: the exposed (mostly) facade of the old Stix, Baer & Fuller building where the demo of the Washington Avenue skybridge is nearly complete. I think that's moved along quite nicely considering that back on May 21, it looked more like this: Looks to me like the job is somewhere between 60 and 70 percent complete. (I think the projected completion date is sometime next week. They just might make it!)
The one thing that concerns me is the condition of the facade. I'd read somewhere that they weren't anticipating that the bridge had done much damage to the front as it was more supported by the street pillars, not the Stix building. I don't know though. This looks pretty messed up to me.
For the most part, they were able to leave the original cornice and window moldings intact, but ... there are definitely spots where it was not very loved during the original construction of the bridge. Luckily, the greatest level of the ornamentation of this building is concentrated at the higher and roofline level! It doesn't appear at least that they did much mucking with that, thank God!
Monday, June 14, 2010
You’re a high-flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave! – George M. Cohan, “You’re A Grand Old Flag”
Happy Flag Day!
1. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: "… the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."
2. The earliest reference to the suggestion of a "Flag Day" is cited in Kansas: a Cyclopedia of State History, published by Standard Publishing Company of Chicago in 1912. It credits George Morris of Hartford, Connecticut: To George Morris of Hartford, Conn., is popularly given the credit of suggesting "Flag Day," the occasion being in honor of the adoption of the American flag on June 14, 1777. The city of Hartford observed the day in 1861, carrying out a patriotic program, praying for the success of the Federal arms and the preservation of the Union.
3. In Waubeka, Wisc., in 1885, school teacher Bernard J. Cigrand held the first recognized Flag Day observance. In June 1886, he first publicly proposed an annual observance of the birth of the United States flag in "The Fourteenth of June," published in the Chicago Argus. In June 1888, he advocated the holiday speaking before the "Sons of America," a Chicago group and founders of the American Standard, a magazine to promoting reverence of American emblems.
4. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.
5. The largest Flag Day parade is held annually in Troy, New York, which bases its parade on the Quincy parade and typically draws 50,000 spectators.
But starting this Sunday (June 20), and every Sunday throughout the summer, our friends at One Project Closer are kickin’ it up a notch by awarding some worthy project a $50 Home Depot gift card for you and a donation made in your name to Habitat for Humanity! When the season wraps all weekly winners will compete for a grand prize, a $150 Home Depot card.
Hopefully, you took at least one before shot of your room or other makeover. And, while you can have some professional assistance on the job, ideally you’ve done most of it yourself. (There’s a 75 percent requirement for that. See the complete rules and instructions here.)
Send some pictures and the story of your project in! If you’re me, before you can enter, you need to get a project to the “after” stage. I’m hoping that before the contest wraps, either my bathroom or my kitchen (ideally both) will get in the running. I’ve been fortunate enough to be among weekly winners for the past two years, both for outdoor projects. Would be nice to add an indoor project to the mix!
But, if you’ve already got a project done for the year – or will wrap in the next few days – hurry and send it in! What better way to celebrate than a nice prize for you and the support of a great cause?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
He described a client who was taken with a particular photo and wanted to carry that similar theme in his own home. The thing he liked the most? A wallpaper pattern.
“…He went on to explain that he can’t use wallpaper in his home because it’s too “taste specific.” Mind you, this is a man who’d also told me he had no intention of selling any time soon and he was interested in making his house really his. So when did making a home “taste specific” to the man who owns it become a bad thing?”
Seriously? I’ve always believed that a house is a house – until you make it a home. The whole concept of making it yours, whether you hire someone to do it or you complete the work with your own two hands – is what makes that transformation from house to home complete.
I think the same holds true for whether something is “out of date.” That, too, is a matter of opinion. I wrote about this a while back in reference to brass fixtures. I was mighty tired of hearing all the “experts” on both HGTV and DIY decry brass as “outdated.” Just the other day I saw a headline posing the question, “Are Granite Countertops Outdated?” I nearly blew a gasket.
The only time you will ever hear me adamantly disagree with changes that someone may make to their home is if it does something to significantly alter the historic integrity of a house. Granted, it’s their house and they can do whatever they like. But still ... I remember a colleague of the mother’s many years ago buying a beautiful, albeit rundown, house. It had gorgeous original fireplaces throughout and its woodwork was nearly as pristine as the day it was built. I was in love.
We went back a year or so later for some kind of party and I was excited about seeing what she had done – until I saw it. Several of the original fireplaces had been removed. Beautiful French doors that led out to a lovely brick veranda had been ripped out, replaced with sliders that led to a monstrosity of a wood deck. And nearly every square inch of that once pristine woodwork had been painted in some horrid shade.
I was devastated. But, that was immaterial. The point is, it was her house. It was what she wanted in it, since she was the one living there.
As Paul mentioned in his post, a potential sale is a factor that could make you reconsider your decision to paint every room in the house a different primary color. Or, at least it should if you really want to sell. But if you’re not selling your home or planning to turn it into a rental property, there’s only one person who has to be happy the décor of your home: you.
And, while not everyone will agree with the choices you’ve made, both the choices and the house are yours. You have permission to invoke the line I always say I'm going to use should a visitor point out one of the flaws I know are there or if they want to criticize my color choice: They can just go the hell home!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I had planned to get this early start to beat both the inevitable rain and the heat that I knew was on tap (90+ today with unbearable humidity). I succeeded ... sort of.
I'd planned to do a tool review today but for a variety of reasons this didn't happen. So, I was focused on mowing. I started shortly after 10. The front yard went quick and easy but I was soaked clear-through before I'd finished. It was 88 degrees. OUCH!
I debated skipping the back but soldiered on instead. There were blue skies all around, so I felt totally comfortable in continuing on. But, just as I was on the last part of yard, a grey/black sky appeared overhead. Uh-oh.
I stepped up my pace, managed to swipe a few wayward branches from the neighbor's tree, wash the lawnmower, load all the waste into the car, condense multiple bags of alumninum cans (for recycling) when the first raindrops fell. It was a short shower and the sun emerged again.
About 90 minutes later, the sky turned again. And, as I sit here, thunder shakes the house.
I'm showered and cool and I'm no longer thirsty or hungry. There's a Yorkie against my hip and a cat sleeping on a cushion on the other side of me. The mother is napping on the sofa.
Life is good.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Again, no. I knew it was going to rain this weekend … a month ago.
That’s when I saw the first signs go up for the parish picnic that the nearby Catholic church holds each year. “Don’t plan any outdoor activities for June 11-13,” I told the mother. She got a quizzical look on her face, started to ask why, but then the answer came to her. “Ohhhhh,” she said knowingly.
I’d forgotten about my futuristic forecast until the other day when a truck hauling this drove past me.
A second later, I noticed another truck already in motion on the church lot, hauling this.
The mother forgot, too, until she saw this from our backyard the other night, all lit up. She had a what the hell moment before she recognized what it was! (Trees and buildings block most of the view.)
Every year, without fail, it rains on the picnic. Usually, it’s a real sogfest with at least two of the event’s three days getting heavy rain at least sporadically. Last year is the only one in recent memory where I can recall them getting by with hardly any rain at all.
I laughed when I saw the first extended forecast reaching to the weekend. Rain Friday. Rain Saturday. Rain Sunday. Of course!
Days later, that same forecast is still in place although they’ve slightly dialed back the rain for today 'til this afternoon and have it letting up from late tonight through Saturday afternoon. Then it's supposed to return through Sunday. Nice.
I cruised through the grounds during an evening walk this week. A group of carnies had gathered near the front of the church lot where a very crude conversation – the recounting of a strip club visit a few towns away when they were here last year – was in progress. There were women among them and I was embarrassed for them.
Meanwhile, poor St. Elizabeth stood just a few yards away. I think I saw her blush!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I am young (not even old enough to legally drink), stupid and completely overwhelmed by the volume of papers which I am signing. Oh. My. God. I've just become a part homeowner! I am completely clueless as to what I have just signed on for …
June 10, 2010
Just over two years ago, you officially became ours, free and clear. You will continue to be ours – as long as I pay the taxes, of course.
It’s been an interesting journey to say the least. The mother threw body and soul into you before the ink was dry. Back then, you were white with black shutters and had those oh-so-lovely black wrought iron supports. Even so, she saw the potential in you. I did not.
Moving day was fun. We’d had some help early on with appliances, a few dressers and bed sets but just about everything else (including the dining room, living room and other assorted furniture) were left to the mother and I. In a borrowed truck.
My late aunt, who had a boat of a Lincoln at the time, packed it to the gills for two trips with boxes and clothing. And then we drove away from the old house for good.
I should have known how rocky our relationship was going to be from the very first trip though. The trip where the mother and I managed to load and then unload a sofa – only to have it get stuck in the front door, the mother trapped between the arm of the sofa and the jamb, thanks to the then 32-inch front door! (She would later have that entry widened to 36 inches and put your original door on the back where it remains today.)
I had a cow a year or so later when she announced plans to have you painted gray. I just couldn’t see it. It ended up being one of my favorite changes and, as turned out, the first of several in an ongoing series. (On the second painting, we messed up. SO sorry about that! But, we corrected ourselves back in ’07. Hope you’re happier now. I know I am!) Columns replaced the wrought iron and a carport replaced the garage which had burned.
My very first jobs were painting and wallpapering the kitchen and shuttering nearly every window in the house. (Ultimately, I would shutter them ALL.) Our first Yorkie, Scruffy, was a puppy then, just five or six months old. I was painting in the kitchen and he came and walked in the paint ... tracking tiny Yorkie prints all over the recently tiled kitchen and dining room floors.
You gave us fits those first few years, house. During the first five years alone we replaced the water heater, water main and furnace. (The water main was fun. My dear sweet cousin Dago and I dug a trench the length of the backyard in pouring rain and temps in the 50s.)
In the ‘90s, it would be new carpet, the first major redo of the bathroom, a complete redo of the downstairs family room and, on the outside, newel posts and railing were added.
Little by little, piece by piece, you became what you are today. (Currently, on the interior, a dream feature for The Hoarders.) But it won’t always be this way. There are many things to finish and several more projects waiting to be started. But we’ll get there. I'm game if you are!
Stick with me, house. Don’t throw any curveballs, and we’ll get there.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
What I do hate, however, is removing wallpaper. That’s something I think that prison inmates should be made to do.
How hard – or easy – a job it is depends on a lot of factors. Wallpaper, truly paper and with no backing, will either fall off the wall or cling to it for dear life. There is no middle ground.
Vinyl prepaste wallpaper may come off in larger strips, but it almost always has at least one patch, more often than not several patches, that are particularly stubborn. Wallpaper of any kind applied to other wallpaper or to painted surfaces usually clings well but can be removed easier than wallpaper attached to bare drywall.
That’s been my experience anyway. And it’s also why many people don’t like wallpaper.
When I began ripping the old wallpaper off in our bathroom last year, I had just discovered a great product: Zinnser’s DIF spray gel wallpaper remover. It's very easy to use and IT WORKS!
Score the wallpaper. Spray It down. Let it sit for 15 -20 minutes. Remove wallpaper! (Use a remover tool or just a dull putty knife – my preference – to bring up the edges and remove any excess remover.) You can find other wallpaper removing tips from Zinsser here.
Wipe the wall down with a damp sponge. Once it dries, you’re ready to paint or put up new wallpaper!
This stuff really came in hand last weekend as we demoed both downstairs bathrooms at the restaurant. It worked like a charm in the men’s restroom, on a modern drywall surface. But on the bare plaster wall in the ladies’ room? Not so much. I managed to get the border off, leaving a few lumps in the surface, but that wallpaper was stuck! I was afraid to fight with it too much, concerned about what might be underneath, fully believing it to be the original plaster walls. OUCH!
So, I sanded off the rough edge left by the border, then used the sandpaper to scuff up the wallpaper, wiped off the dust and painted it. I used a color similar to the background color of the wallpaper. Voila! New surface to paper over.
It went pretty well though even the layers of old wallpaper couldn’t hide years of imperfections in the walls. If you’re looking for a perfectly smooth surface, you’ll just have to start with drywall!
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
That’s not usually a good sign. But as I hit the doorway from the dining room she said: “Look out there,” she said, motioning to the kitchen window, the window that looks out onto the backyard. “You’re going to like it.”
As I entered the kitchen and neared the window, I expected to see an animal. Maybe a squirrel. Or possibly a little bird out on the deck. Instead, I was greeted by a beautiful sky as the sun began to wrap up its departure from it for the day.
Wow. It was so awesome that I headed back through the house to my room … and grabbed the camera. Then I went out to the backyard. These photos don’t quite do justice to what I saw but I think you’ll get the idea. The whole time I was taking these, I could here CCR in my head:
Doot, doot doo, lookin’ out my back door ….
Monday, June 7, 2010
It’s not often that you’ll hear me cheer about something being torn down in downtown St. Louis so brace yourself: CHEER!
While the gutting of St. Louis Centre will be going on for a while, the adjacent Washington Avenue skybridge is rapidly disappearing. There were even workers on a scaffold along the side of the old Stix building on Friday which tells me that these plans must be progressing nicely.
Hard to imagine that preserving the face of the old building was top of mind with those who were doing this work back in the early ‘80s. I guess we’ll just have to see.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
The first bus would let me off at 10th and Washington. I had to catch the second at 6th and Locust. If it sounds like there was some distance there, there was. I only mention it because I did some walking around Friday to see how the skybridge demo was coming and to get a closer look at the former St. Louis Centre which is being transformed into the Seventh Street Garage. I stood there, just across the street, transfixed on it for a few minutes.
For some reason, I thought about the many times I'd stood on that corner back when it was home to a Woolworth's store. Back before I'd be using the employee entrance to the old Famous Barr that was just across the street.
I'd been to that Woolworth's a bazillion times in my life. The mother and I had eaten lunch and shopped there when I was little. I only vaguely recall it being torn down though I vividly remember the construction of the mall. Funny how selective our memories can be sometimes.
At any rate, here's a few shots from the gutting of the center. The signage is now gone from over the entryway, the windows to its skyway are boarded up and the windows on the first few floors have been removed.
As I walked by, a guy was dismantling lights on the third floor. At first, I didn't see the guy, only the sparks from his blowtorch.
The camera's fabulous zoom fixed that for me! It made for kind of a cool shot.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I slept in and then got up so that I could complete a variety of tasks before noon. (Vet's office, bank, insurance company) and then I washed the car. It took exactly 5 minutes for me to get soaking wet in the 85+ degree heat (coupled with 70 percent humidity).
After that, a shopping trip with the mother and then ... a nap. Naps are SO underrated. I'm not sure why I hated them so much when I was 5!
Spring seems to have skipped us entirely. It's suppose to storm later which is supposed to make for a cooler day tomorrow. Good thing, since yard work is on tap.
Friday, June 4, 2010
No. My sunrise arrival at work was greeted with an email bearing good news: one of the projects I worked on last year won an industry award last night! Happy clients, happy corporate leadership, very happy me. Smiles all around.
I'm hoping this means that my Silver Surfer dude (that's him in the picture) will soon have a little bronze guy to keep him company ... we'll see.
Another email made me smile, too, because it told me that maybe, just maybe, I'm onto something. And clearly, that I'm not as stupid as Blogger might lead me to believe.
You may, or may not, remember that I wrote about Next Blog back in February. It's a Blogger navbar function that supposedly takes you to a blog of "similar content" when you click on it. Whatever.
For me, it's meant new readership from all over the world. But I noticed a funny thing a little more than a week ago: the Next Blog visits stopped. Entirely. Not slowed down or decreased ... completely stopped. This went on for three or four days.
At that point, I got on the Blogger help forum, did a lot of searching and when I didn't find an answer, I queried this. I got a response. It amounted to a lengthy tutorial in how to drive readership to your blog. Send your URL to your friends and family ... update your blog with interesting content. Get other bloggers to include the URL to your site.
Huh? This had nothing at all to do with the question I'd asked. See, I'd wondered if the Chinese spammer from a few weeks ago -- and my subsequent addition of comment moderation -- might have something to do with pulling me out of the Next Blog rotation. No one answered that question. So I just said the hell with it and dropped it.
I'm still monitoring closely though as I continue to clear the spam comments from the blog (I think I'm a little more than halfway there now) and I am now getting an occasional Next Blog visit. I'm maybe getting 2 or 3 a day -- compared to the 30, 40, even 50 or more I was getting early last week and HAD BEEN since February!
Then, I got an email from Rachel at Apron Strings who had seen my help forum query. She, too, had noticed a drop-off in her Next Blog visits that started last week, too! Hmmmm ... An email exchange later, the one I got from her this morning, I find out that she TOO had been hit by the Chinese spammer and resorted to comment moderation. So, I'm now wondering ...
Has anyone else -- whether you've been Chinese-spammed or not -- noticed a drop-off in Next Blog visits since last Wednesday/Thursday? Please leave me a comment if so, noting whether or not you have been spammed and/or added comment moderation in the past month or two. If enough of us are having this problem, MAYBE we can get an intelligent answer ... and maybe even a resolution. Thanks!
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Maybe it took a good knock on the head to get me moving again, but I think June is going to be a great mix of things both standard and new:
- After marathon activity at Another D*mn House, I have a renewed commitment to projects here. It may be slow progress, but be ready to see progress. Finally.
- Not one, but at least TWO tool reviews. My love of tools hasn’t waned – just the time I’ve been able to devote to reviewing them. That, my friends, is about to change!
- A return of the St. Louis historic architecture feature – packed with plenty of photos.
And, I think I’ve saved the best for last. Brace yourselves for the cherry on the icing on the cake:
My first ever give-away. Yes, you, too, can win a rechargeable tool! Stay tuned for details. I’m really excited about sharing the free stuff love and hoping it’s just the first of many opportunities to do so.
It’s all coming this month, so I hope you’ll keep visiting!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I went non-stop Sunday and Monday at the restaurant and followed that up yesterday with a marathon session at home trying to get caught up on the basics. Here’s a summary of the last three days:
• While we did not get the bathrooms finished, we painted one, stripped wallpaper off the walls of the other and rewallpapered both. It’s important to note that we didn’t get to work on Saturday (as had originally been planned) and on Sunday, most of the crew (cousins and spouses), except the mother and I, were working outside to paint the porch and fence.
• All of the chair rail and baseboard that’s going up got painted and it would have gotten cut except it kept pouring down rain every time anyone would try on Monday.
• And, I’ll apologize now for the lack of photographic evidence. I didn’t take a single photo over the weekend. I know, I know. But … it isn’t finished yet. No set date yet for the weekend we’ll next tackle it. Soon though. Soon.
• Instead of being able to sleep in, I was rudely awakened right at 8 yesterday by construction equipment that shook the entire house. (From the road repair out front that seems to never make any progress.) This went on all morning during which I gave up and did some things for work and got ready for my doctor’s appointment.
• The staples are out. And, I barely knew it was happening! (I was so terrified that taking them out was going to be like putting them in.) The head wound was deemed officially closed and healing up nicely. Hair is busily growing back around it and I FINALLY got to scrub my entire scalp last night instead of dodging the stapled area. Ahhhhhh.
• I needed the scrubbing after mowing a few weeks’ worth of lawn growth yesterday and washing a car.
The better news is that after pushing myself for days like that -- after being out of the project loop for so long -- I am rarin' to go again. I really want to get into things at home. Here's hoping we can get a set time to wrap things up with the family (and stick to it) so I can once again focus on This D*mn House.
Now that it's light well into the evening again (LOVE IT!), I need to start planning to tackle little jobs or parts of job so that I don't completely lose momentum again.
Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps ...