Thursday, October 28, 2010


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


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),, 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.

Monday, October 18, 2010

From New Heights

The weekend was jam-packed with activity. Saturday day was filled with fun. It started early and I met up with the MonkeyGirl shortly after 8:30.

I got to see the darling MonkeyBaby who is now walking, even tentatively running. (They’re SO cute when they first are walking. They’re like little Weebles except that sometimes they DO fall down.) And then I got to see Mama Martha and was expecting Harriet but she had some incident involving car keys that kept her away. Boo, hiss! I hope she was able to resolve it all without breaking the bank.

The day flew by, as they always do. I got to play with my Slice and do some card-making. (Finished up the Halloween cards, made a birthday and a Thanksgiving card.) The MonkeyGirl was creating an 11th-hour gift – for a party that night – so it was fun to watch her create. The finished product was awesome!

Shortly before dark, Ladybird and I headed for Alton. I had tried to buy something the mother wanted on Friday that our local store had only one of . Of course, getting the first one home was much easier since it was just across town. To get the second one though, I had to travel. Securing the item in the trunk for a roughly 30-mile roundtrip was a bit more challenging. But I did it and got everything home in one piece!

As soon as I got home, I unloaded Ladybird and Pearl, who still had the bulk of my scrapbooking stuff stowed in the trunk. Then Pearl and I left on a household item shopping spree. It was busy, but the day afforded some much-needed downtime and funtime with friends as well as some solitude. (Not to mention some solo Pearl time with First Wave cranked!)

Yesterday, I cooked for the animals then got outside and finally used that ladder I bought last year as a Christmas present to myself. It was nice to not have to bother anyone to borrow a ladder to do various outside jobs. (More details to come on this product.)

The cupola and the vent you see in my banner? They both got cleaned, caulked and had a fresh coat of paint slapped over them. Ditto for the vent that’s near the roofline on the other side of the house. I could instantly tell that I didn’t do this vent on the far side of the house last year because it was in such poor shape. Had to spend plenty of time and care with it, unlike the cupola which was in remarkably good shape as I had tended to it last year. (My legs and feet and back are paying for all of that today. God, aging sucks!) But, I didn’t fall off the roof of the carport or even off the ladder.

GO me!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Odds and Ends

The bus is pulling out of the station right on time. I had just enough time to park Ladybird and make the station to board this morning. Yeah, it’s Friday and the ole reflexes are slow today.

It’s very chilly out. Almost everyone on this quite full bus is bundled in some form or fashion. The garb of choice appears to be hoodies, topped with either a stocking or baseball cap. Not me; I’m just wearing my short khaki trench coat. (I finally brought home ALL my jackets from the office. As of yesterday, I had THREE on the back of my door! )


The phone is back in business! A phone tech called my cell about 8:30 yesterday and said he was en route to the house. He asked if there were any dogs in the yard he should know about. I laughed. “If there are, they aren’t mine.” Kind of reminded me of the Peter Sellers gag in the one Pink Panther sequel where he asks the guy if his dog bites. “No,” says the man without looking up from his paper.

When Sellers puts his hand down to pat it, the dog invariably clamps him. “I thought you said your dog doesn’t bite!”

The man looks up and nonchalantly says, “Not my dog.”

Tomorrow is Croptoberfest, an all-day scrapbooking event for our regular group of croppers. Really looking forward to seeing my scrapbooking buds – and to playing with the many Slice design cards I’ve acquired during the past two months. I’ve gotten quite a few, 90 percent of them on eBay.

As if I didn’t have enough to keep me occupied, I managed to buy two different lots of Slice cards. Of the 32 I bought, I’m keeping 8. I’ve been reselling the rest over the past few weeks. I got off to a rocky start, not netting nearly what I should have out of the deals for the first several (eBay, Paypal and the USPS all get their pound of flesh from me).

This week though, things have been much better. Now that I’m halfway through unloading the unwanted cards, maybe I’ve turned a corner. Here’s hoping. I think it’s more that I’ve gotten a little smarter and been a little luckier, too.

I’d like to drivie down the end cost of the cards I’m keeping for me to as low a number as I can. ($10-$15 each would be great; “free” would be ideal.)


Sunday will be a full day of work on the house. One of my primary objectives will be to caulk and paint the cupola and the vent that are featured so prominently in my page logo. Then, I’ll head to the other side of the house where I’ll have to climb even higher to reach another vent near the roof’s peak. I’ve been eyeing it all summer and it’s in pretty rough shape.

Fun times.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Resurrection of the Mysterious Dead Phone

My phone at work rang shortly after 3 p.m. I am blessed with a “spy phone” as my colleagues have dubbed it, better known as a phone with caller ID. It was the mother’s cell.

Though she has a phone identical to mine which I bought for her last Christmas, it does not operate like mine. While it worked fine for the first few months, for the past several it drops a call anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes in. Today marked the first time I’ve had a conversation with her while she’s on it that exceeded the 3-minute mark.

“It’s back,” she announced.

What’s back? I queried.

“The Dead Phone.”

Several times during the past decade or so, phone service at This D*mn House has mysteriously just ceased. No rhyme or reason. No one else affected around us. Just us. It used to occur several times a year. (No one had ever been able to adequately explain the cause.) Then, it became semi-annual. It was down to about once a year. And this time, I think it’s been 16 months or so since it last befell us. But whatever the timing, it’s definitely back.

Many times, it goes away as quickly as it appeared, well before a tech ever reaches the scene.
When our phone service was restored after the storm of July 2006, the phone company put a band tie through the loop that holds the outer door of the outside phone box on the house closed. They’ve repeated this procedure on subsequent visits so the mother couldn’t get it open to try and test the line. I did it as soon as I got home. Dead.

I used my cell to call the phone company’s repair service. Automated.

When cued to enter our phone number, I did so. “Please hold while I retrieve your account records.” Ten seconds or so of silence, then, “I’m sorry. I have no record of that account.”

Funny. It’s been the same phone number for more than 26 years. And you have no problem identifying that account when you cash the check every month …

Miss Automation announces that she will “redirect my call” which is then taken over by Mr. Automation. He asks me to reenter my phone number and has no problem identifying the account. “I have your records,” he declares! I like Mr. Automation – until he gets stupid.

“Does the phone number you are reporting have a dial tone? Press 1 for yes or 2 for no.”

I punch in a 2.

“Are you calling from that phone number? Press 1 for yes or 2 for no.”

Did I not just tell you that the number DOESN’T HAVE A DIAL TONE?! Do I look like Hermione Granger to you?! If that number had a dial tone, I wouldn’t need to be calling you to begin with, now would I? Sheesh…

“Please hold while we check for trouble on that line.”

About 30 seconds of silence and then, “We found no trouble on that line. Here are some things you can try to diagnose the source of the trouble.”

Wait. Didn’t you just tell me there IS no trouble? This is starting to sound like an Abbott & Costello skit.

“If you do not have LineBacker coverage, you may be assessed charges for a service visit,” he drones on.

If you actually have my records as you claim, then you know that I pay each month for that service. So how’s about haulin’ your happy li’l self over here and fix my phone!

“A trouble report has been issued for this number. Your service should be restored by 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct.14. In the unlikely circumstance that your service has not been restored, a credit will automatically be applied to your next bill.”

That was last night. The phone is still dead this morning and I’m jones’in for an Internet fix. (Guessing that roughly 16 hours is about my limit for being unplugged.) We’ve still got roughly half a day before we see if Mr. Automation was telling the truth or not.

The mystery continues...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday ToolTalk: Performance Tool Clip Removal Pliers

I mentioned that, like Ladybird, Pearl had light issues in the past week, too. As I did some months back when the driver’s side daytime running light (or DRL, which doubles as the turn signal) went out, I changed it on my own. When the passenger side light failed, as I knew it would, I dreaded repeating the experience.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. Unlike earlier this year, on Sunday, I was armed with a powerful new tool: Performance Tool Clip Removal Pliers.

When I did this before, I had only a putty knife and a set of needle-nose pliers to get the job done. It took forever. Really. I was so incredibly frustrated. I mean I have never owned a car where at some point I personally didn’t change a turn signal, a taillight, even a headlamp. It’s basic, routine maintenance. It’s one of those things that gets used nearly every time we drive a car. It’s bound to wear out. You really should not have to go to a dealership to have it done. And I’m still p*ssed at GM for making something so simple so d*mned difficult.

After my prior ordeal, I learned that GM had designed my car so that a panel under the wheel well had to be loosened, if not removed, to gain access to the turn signal/DRL bulb. But thanks to the guys on the Cadillac owners’ forum , I also knew that there was supposedly a tool that could make this job go oh so much easier.

So it was with some degree of confidence that I marched into Advance Auto Parts on Friday morning. I explained what I wanted. The guy behind the counter looked at me knowingly and led me right to this tool. And $19.29+tax later, it was mine.

The clip puller has a notched edge that gets beneath the pin. Squeeze the handles and the pin pulls free.

The first three were a piece of cake. It worked like a charm. The fourth was a little more difficult because it was positioned high and in the back. But once I found a good spot to get the tool to where I could gain some leverage, BAM! Number four pin was out.

The fifth and final pin was the worst. It was actually located beneath the car, nearest the bulb itself. It was hard only because I couldn’t see what I was doing. I’m sure this is something that isn’t the slightest challenge to someone whose auto mechanic skills are infinitely more perfected than mine. For that reason alone, I will not fault this tool for that problem.

Pros: Easy to grip, easy to squeeze and something that makes very quick work of a job that can be difficult and time-consuming.

Cons: My singular complaint is that this tool could be just a little shorter. It would make it infinitely easier to maneuver in tight spaces. Other than that, I give it an A- overall.

Conclusion: If you own a car where you need to regularly remove pesky pushpins to do anything, this will be 20 of the best dollars that you ever spend. (Or much less. Found them cheaper online, but ... I needed them immediately.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Day (Mostly) Off

After three consecutive days of crankin’ it during a majority of daylight hours, the mother and I did what most red-blooded Americans do on a calendar holiday: GO SHOPPING!

I got up early to take out the trash and slipped gratefully back into a deep sleep for a few more hours. Absolute heaven.

Got up. Got dressed. Got out the door. Made a variety of stops and picked up a bunch of bargains. I have been lucky buying clothes lately. Usually, I can’t find much I like, or when I do, can’t find it in my size. While I did encounter a bit of that today, I generally made off like a bandit. Every item I bought was on sale AND I got an extra 20 percent off all of it. God, I love Kohl’s. Cha-freakin’ ching!

A few more stops, then a brief lunch break, and we were back home again.

But I couldn’t let my time off end without some good old-fashioned elbow grease though. So, with shopping adventure behind us, the mother and I returned to the yard. It was an abbreviated work day to be sure, lasting just three plus hours, but it was rigorous. I hefted a dozen bags of white marble chips around the property where the mother and I spread them out. (For the record, we have the equivalent of a quarry around the house perimeter but the mother feels the need to refresh it at least once a year.)

After that, I spent more than 30 minutes digging up toadstools. For some reason, they’ve become rampant this year on the shared lot. (The neighbor has some clusters that are at least 18 inches wide and roughly 6-8 inches tall that he has done nothing with. So, naturally, they’ve migrated onto our property.)

It got up to 85 today, so by the time the sun set (which was a beautiful scene, by the way) I was soaking wet and exhausted. The day was a perfect mix of work and play. Tomorrow though, it’s all work.

Back to the office I go …

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Love for the Ladybird

It's 24 hours later and I feel a lot like I did when I wrote the last post ...

Today started a little earlier than yesterday and it started at, of all places, Wal-Mart. It started there because my late-night, borderline hoosier trip to Walgreens last night left me without my OTC allergy meds that they keep behind the pharmacy counter. (I say borderline hoosier because in my family, we consider the post-midnight run to Walgreens to be "hoosier." We do it all the time and the running joke is that you go there and then to IHOP to hang with the rest of the hoosiers. We can say that because we often do it. Or did, until IHOP went away some years back.) But I digress.

I had hoped to not visit Wal-Mart until Monday but there was no way I could not go, considering I needed my meds. So, to Wal-Mart I went this morning. But, I had yet another purpose, and another priority, on my to-do list. I discovered at the conclusion of my friend gathering on Thursday night that Pearl had a burned-out turn signal. Not the one that I had changed back in the spring, thankfully. But the other side. I knew it was only a matter of time.

Less than 24 hours later, on returning home from the dump with Ladybird, I discovered that she, too, had a burned out light. In this case, the driver's side headlight.

So, my trip to Wal-Mart included having that headlight replaced. But I wasn't sure if Wal-Mart's service department was open on Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised.

Thanks to back-logged service department, it was more than an hour before I was on my way home with both my allergy medicine and a new headlight. I took Ladybird to the carwash and scrubbed the living hell out of her. When I got home, I carefully scrubbed under the hood (not sure when the last time that ever happened was) vacuumed all the crap from trees that had gotten lodged in the door creases and along the top of the hood.

I filled in the very bottom of the driver's side door with a product called plastic metal by 3M to replace a rusted-out section. Since the area was kinda big, I had to do this in layers, about every 2 hours. It dried really well so it can be sanded and painted now!

In between layers and the other Ladybird lovin', I finished filling in the stones around the shed and gathering everything up for the trash tomorrow. Then I scrubbed up and put away a bunch of stuff including buckets and the ShopVac.

I was going to wash Pearl, but by the time the sun set, I was done in. I consoled her by explaining that I had done something for her today (that's for another post) and that I would wash her tomorrow because today was her sister's day. That poor car. It finally did get some love. She'll be getting some more love in the next few weeks when I take her to the car wash boys across the street from the office for an annual detailing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The First 48 Hours

It's been two busy and back-breaking days.

My mini-vacation got started with a get together Thursday night with five of my high school friends. I met up first with The MonkeyGirl. We rode together from her house (where I got to see her nearly finished home improvement project) and got to catch up.

Time has a very fluid quality when this group gets together. Time both flies AND stands still.

The evening flew by as it always seems to do with all of us. And yet, as it always does, it stood still. None of us could remember, with certainty at least, when the last time was that six of the eight of us had gathered. We'd managed four and five, but not six, in recent years.

"It's been years," said The Teacher. "And it's like we've never been away from each other at all." Yeah. It really is like that. Always has been. I can't think of a faster way to peel back 30 years.

I got home late, got to bed later still but was up early. Or, at least earlier than I'd planned to be. (Got a call from the office as I was just settling in again. That got me up and moving.) Before I knew it, I was dressed and outside.

Friday was all about yard work and caulking. I pulled weeds, I dug up toadstools, I mowed. I fixed a big hole on the interior of the shed and I caulked all the trim I'd added earlier in the week. I hauled everything off to the dump, cleaned and put everything I'd used throughout the day away.

I was in bed by 11, falling asleep and jerking awake several times before I actually went to bed. This is a rarity for any night, much less a Friday night, but I was that exhausted.

I got up early this morning, before sunrise, and ran and got some breakfast. I took Tylenol after I'd finished and crawled back into bed for a few hours. I sprang awake and was back outside by around 10:30.

I caulked the carport and repaired and replaced some of the trim boards that had been damaged in spring storms. I filled in the stones around the shed (half of them anyway) with concrete as the sand from the original installation was mostly eroded. I caulked the front porch and started filling in driveway cracks.

I was all over the place. And now I feel like I was. I'm achey and tired and ready for bed. Tomorrow is going to yet another workday.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Living in a Tiny D*mn Space

The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing. – Marcus Aurelius

When I saw this quote (which I happened upon quite accidently when my day planner opened to the page bearing it) I laughed. I laughed because it hit home, my home. I'm sure that's not what Marcus Aurelius had in mind, but ... it's how I related to it.

It’s particularly true of a small space. I’ve been in homes where ballroom dancing is entirely possible. In fact, if I had that much open space, I might actually dance through the house. (And if you know me, you know I don’t dance. At least not well. Or often.) Around here, you’d bust into something before you completed a twirl.

I laughed because when I opened my closet the other night to deposit a few new purchases, the contents appeared ready to burst. Mind you, my closet is in name only. It’s only marginally bigger than what passes for that tall narrow cabinet (where brooms and mops and sometimes ironing boards go) in most people’s kitchens. So I did the only thing that anyone in my position would do: I purged.

‘Tis the season, you know. We’re riding that cusp between summer and winter that is fall. That cusp which produces 80-degree highs and 38-degree lows. So for at least the next month or so, I have to be ready for any of the four seasons on any given day.

That means making way for some of the new fall/winter clothes I purchased in the past week. At first, it was easy. I started with clothes that are just too small or ones that I know I haven’t worn in two years. Others are well worn but still in good shape, just not particularly good on my shape anymore.

Then, it started to get more difficult. I turned loose of a suit that I’d be embarrassed to admit its age, a suit that it’s been at least five years, maybe more, since I’ve even worn it. Before I knew it, I'd nearly filled a trash bag. The Salvation Army received those clothes yesterday.

I also removed two trench coats and a half-dozen light-weight articles (including some summer whites) and ferried them to the basement closet. The closet that Lawrence and I built almost three years ago. The closet that my scrapbooking stuff lives in one small corner of. The closet that the mother otherwise took possession of within days of its completion while I was gone for the weekend. But I digress.

My point is that it takes some maneuvering to live in a tiny space and that’s why I found this slideshow on so interesting. It’s a handful of some really cool ideas for maximizing limited space.

I’m particularly fond of that stair-drawer idea. Not sure it work for us, but it’s definitely worth contemplating.

Hey … Lawrence?!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday ToolTalk: Black &Decker Firestorm – 18V

We haven’t talked tools in a long, long time. And the tools of today’s topic have been hanging around for a few months already. Little by little I’ve been putting them to use.

As an early birthday present to me, I snagged a multi-tool Black & Decker Firestorm 18V set. It included a drill, jigsaw, 7-inch circular saw, 90-degree drill, a flashlight and sander and two batteries. Another plus: those 18V batteries can be used to supplement my 24V weedeater/trimmer when that power source is fading.

The two tools I’ve used the most so far are in the picture: the drill and sander. The sander has been a godsend for the cabinet doors it’s sitting on top of. I have also used the jigsaw, making just a few cuts.

I happened upon this set for a great price and with free shipping. I was somewhat dismayed to learn, however, that B&D is shedding this line of tools. I can’t imagine why. They work and work well.

The drill lets you choose between torque and speed (though I’ve found torque to be infinitely more helpful) and gives you five settings for working as either a driver or drill. It’s a nice range of power and has made pretty quick work of most of what I’ve put in front of it thus far.

The sander has one of the coolest features ever. It has VELCRO to hold the sanding sheets in place! No more ripping at the edges to have to stop and replace the sandpaper. Fortunately, this is a feature they’ve kept on newer models, including the smaller “mouse,” so replacement sheets are still very easy to come by.

A tool that doesn’t use the 18V battery, operating under its own plug-in internal battery, is the 90-degree drill. It’s infinitely smaller than the other drill (even than my 9.6 V version) so I’m thinking it will work wonders on some of the harder-to-reach cabinet hinges – and without damaging the wallpaper.

I won’t do a full review since this isn’t a current product. But … I will say that if you come across this line of tools and have the chance to snag them, my advice would be to do it.

I'll do an update in the future on these and the other tools in the kit after I've used them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Yup -- I was back in the saddle today. My horses (sawhorses) and trusty gun (sometimes known as a cordless B&D 18-volt) at my side ... it felt good. It felt fabulous to actually be DOING again.

And I DID all day.

Lots of little repairs, clearing out and cleaning AND some Halloween decorating.
Stay tuned for details. I am wiped out!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Speaking of Sales ...

We DO love to spend money at This D*mn House (at least it would seem so) -- but we love to make the most of every dollar while doing it!

Starting Saturday night, you can save an extra 10 to 20 percent at or at your local Sears store. Tools, electronics, grills and more are 10 percent off.

The sale will start online at 8 p.m. CT Saturday and run through 4 a.m. CT Monday, Oct 4. The nationwide in-store sale runs from 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Oct 3. (Dates and times differ a bit in a handful of cities (Raleigh, Cincinnati, Miami, Dallas, Boston, and Seattle). One of my favorite features: shop on-line but pick it up in-store! Get all the details here.

As an added bonus, there’s a chance to win up to $1,000 in Sears gift cards in the Sears Family and Friends Sweeps this week! Follow this link to enter the contest.

Good luck ... and happy shopping!

Making the Most of Bargains

It takes a good deal of money to run a house, keep up cars and even to DIY.

So if you find yourself in the throes of a project, sales flyers and coupons can be your best friend. If you write checks, or use a debit or credit card with some stores, they will target you with these savings offers. (Thank you, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Gordman’s and Kohl’s.) I estimate that I save between $600 and $800 annually on coupon deals. And that’s probably quite conservative.

I diligently read the ads that make up much of our Sunday newspaper as well as the ones I find jamming the mailbox and even my email inbox. (Online coupon codes offer percent off and/or free shipping!)

If you look hard enough, you can find a whole selection of money-saving options from your local dry cleaners to fast -food restaurants to products that you use each day around the house.

Here’s a few tips for making these deals work for you.

· Get organized. Invest 99 cents in a small accordion-style folder. Or, better yet, clear one out that you aren’t using for anything in particular and use that to keep the coupons you think you’ll use. Use the separated slots to arrange the coupons in the way that works best for you. This could be by product category, by merchant type or chronologically by the order in which they will expire.
· Look closely. When you get your change, don’t offhandedly discard the receipt or the wad of other paperwork that comes with it. Fast-food restaurants, grocery and discount chains are renowned for putting cents-off coupons – or survey information that you can redeem for discounts or free products – onto the ends or backs of receipts. (Just this week, I’ve gotten a free sandwich and 25 percent off an item, roughly a $13 total savings, for investing a few minutes of my time.)
· Plan. Use flyers to plan your shopping trips. See if you have coupons that will bring the prices down even farther. Be aware of when coupons or other money-saving offers expire.
· In the car. Keep your coupon organizer in your car. This is the one way I’ve found that keeps me from leaving mine at home after I’ve gone to all the trouble to complete the other three steps above!

This is old hat for a lot of you. Many of you will already be the experts that I’m not at this. And if that’s the case, I applaud you. Others of you will wrinkle your nose, just like one lady did in the grocery store last week.

“I don’t mess with those coupons,” she said snootily as the checker rifled through the healthy stack I’d handed her. The tone changed, however, when my almost $60 order decreased by nearly $20. (Granted, $10 of this was an in-store promotion that I didn’t need a coupon for, but that I knew what the rules were and made sure it was applied to my bill.) The lady spied the final total as I forked over my cash.

“Maybe I should though,” she finally said.

Ya think?