Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Tea Party of My Own

WARNING: This is an angry political rant.

I'd love to have my own tea party. Only at my tea party, we would throw the Tea Party into Boston Harbor. (And maybe toss John Boehner and Eric Cantor in behind them?)

Because they all seriously need to go soak their heads. And Grover Norquist? He can kiss my *ss. Not only is he not even an elected official, who the hell died and left him God? He surely does not represent me and I seriously resent that he has the kind of sway that he apparently does over those who do.

I'm glad that all these people have done so well, God bless 'em. But does that mean they don't have to be concerned about anyone else? Nice "Christian" values, those.

Good Lord these people make St. Ronald Reagan, the darling of the real Republican party, a sight for sore eyes! (And this is a man I couldn’t stand. How do you think I feel about this outfit?!) Nick Kristof of the New York Times had a great column last week. In some ways, it was like a “light” version of Jonathan Swift’s 18th century essay “A Modest Proposal” in its acerbic and exaggerated tone.

I am ashamed that our government representatives seriously believe that programs on which the elderly, disabled and infirm depend on for their very survival should be decimated … so that things like tax loopholes on corporate jets can remain open and so we can continue to dole out massive incentives to oil and gas companies who have enjoyed RECORD-SETTING PROFITS the past few years. By all means, throw Grandma under the plane. Make sure you get her right beneath the wheel …

I’m stunned that there is all this focus on making mincemeat of Grandma and making a doormat of armless/legless Johnny. (That, and on reproductive rights. Screw a whole segment of society that's already here, but you must have every fetus, but screw you and it once it’s here.) Weren’t these people supposed to be focused on jobs? (Hey, Boehner, WHERE ARE THE JOBS?!) Apparently not.

No, I don't favor abortion but I DO support someone else's right to make that call for themselves on something that is much too personal. (And these are maneuvers by some of the same people who say that government "over reaches." I think it is a government over reach of the worst kind for its long arm to extend to any woman's ...) Yes, government spending needs to be reined in, but NOT in a way that makes bloodbaths of vital programs. And certainly NOT to the betterment of the 2 percent of the American population who don’t need it.

But clearly, they are after Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Sure, go after the most vulnerable. And they aren’t giving an inch. (If you can’t see where their interests lie, then folks, you have my pity.) They have been offered cuts and their precious lack of tax increases. And still, it’s kill Grandma. And these are some of the same people who created “false” death panel rumors during the Health Care Reform debates. Well, they should know what death panels look like. They’re trying like hell to create REAL ones!

And they better not, not a single damn one of them, say ANYTHING about being a Christian. I have to think that Jesus would have a field day with these folks. Or, maybe they never heard that “what you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

Think on that … as you scrape up whatever’s left of Grandma once these people are finished.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The ‘L’ Word

Sometimes, life really sucks. This is one of those times.

It’s not that I wasn’t aware of the inevitability or that I’m not a realist. It’s just when it comes out into the harsh light of day, some facts beat you over the head with a bat, rabbit punch you in the kidneys and then stab you in the gut.

The ‘L’ word in this case is lymphoma. Ozzie was diagnosed with it last night.

He’s 14. If it wasn’t that, it would be something else. I know this. And yet I feel like my heart has been ripped from my chest with a pitchfork.

Except for some rather excessive swelling in and around his throat, he seems to be his normal little self. In fact, within a few hours of getting home from the vet last night, he vigorously helped me open one of my birthday presents (a pre-midnight surprise and I suspect a pick-me-up courtesy of the mother) and then proceeded to play with the present with the vigor of a puppy (a softball-sized, color-changing ball – something I play with every time we go to Cracker Barrel).

First, we’re going to see if steroids will bring his lymph nodes down any. If not, chemo is another option. But he is 14 and while, according to the vet, dogs do tolerate it relatively well, that’s a bit radical to put him through. Or at least I think it is.

But that’s looking too far ahead.

For right now, I just want him to be as happy and as comfortable as I can make him and enjoy whatever time he has left. He’s had a good long run and I’m grateful for that.

This is just going to be incredibly hard.

All Around Lafayette Park, Part 1

Lafayette Park has had its St. Louis niche clearly carved out for more than 150 years. The neighborhood, of which the 36–acre park is the center, covers several square blocks surrounding it.

It is an awesome mix (if you’re a historic architecture nut like I am) of Victorian, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Italianate, Mansard, Craftsman and about a dozen other styles from the late 19th century.

The Lafayette Park Subdivision deed restrictions and an Act of the State Legislature protected Lafayette Square from much of the “undesirable types of mixed land-use” like manufacturing or taverns. While this co-existence was the norm in most inner city neighborhoods of the pre-zoning era, Lafayette Square was an early NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) advocate. Kind of ironic, too, considering that bars and specialty pubs are commonplace there and that the boundaries of the neighborhood, extended in 1986, include former brewers, a bed manufacturer, shoemaker and a publishing house.

It may, though, be that historic designation, that haughty pride in ownership, which has made this neighborhood one of the city’s most beautiful and enduring. There are so many gorgeous home, literally hundreds of them, that I couldn’t hope to photograph much less post them all. (And that's probably why the ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD is a designated historic site by the National Register of Historic Places.)

I can tell you I was like a kid turned loose in a candy store, my eyes gobbling up one gorgeous home after another.
Benton Place, laid out in 1868, is St. Louis' earliest existing private street. It seems as good a place as any to start. And, the pictures should speak for themselves …

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And She Sets Sail … Bon Voyage!

I catch glimpses of the news each morning as I walk between my room and the bath, occasionally peering in at the TV in the living room. The Admiral was back in the headlines Tuesday because she was officially moving on.

She wouldn’t be under her own power; a barge would push her to Columbia, Ill., and a waiting scrap heap. She’d already overstayed thanks to rising river levels so workers began stripping away the upper deck weeks ago so she could pass beneath the bridges in her path.

I took an early lunch and headed for the riverfront. I decided to seek a perch atop the garage just off Morgan Street.

It’s hard to see much at ground level except through an occasional opening in a garage wall, but I spied a glint of silver reflecting in the baking hot sun. She’s still there! I hadn’t missed it.

I snapped a few photos and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

By 10:45, I decided I could run to a nearby sandwich shop and then resume my perch. That way, I’d at least go back to the office with something to eat!

I was encouraged by movement of the crane, that had been atop the now decimated upper deck, being moved over to the side.

More preparations were under way and her departure seemed imminent. Occasionally, a barge would go by, even though traffic was supposed to be halted. Then, even the Tom Sawyer paddle-wheeler, its decks lined with spectators, floated by.
Shortly after 11, after baking in the sun for about 40 minutes, I knew I had to leave and go back. Begrudgingly, I snapped a few more photos, threw the Admiral a salute and a wave and walked back. Back at the office, I dealt with a few tasks and then checked out a conference room overlooking the river.

I was delighted to find that I could see enough of the Admiral to know when it was moving. Even from my desk, careful craning provided me with a tiny sliver of the hulking boat. Then, she began to move. First, she pulls away from her moorings just opposite the MLK Bridge.
Then, she cruises beneath the historic Eads one final time.

At that point, the boat is extremely close to shore but soon begins to make a wide turn to put it out farther into the Mississippi. I gulp and tear up a bit as I get my initial firsthand look at the devastated upper decks, a place which had been the site of many happy childhood times.

The Admiral begins to straighten her course and then … leaves downtown St. Louis forever. As she glides from view, an era in both downtown’s history and mine ends.

R.I.P. SS Admiral

The Albatross 1907-1937

SS Admiral 1940-2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I spent the bulk of Sunday morning working in the yard. I thought that by starting before 8 a.m. I’d beat the bulk of the heat.

Yeah. Right.

It was already 85 degrees by then and the humidity was well over 60 percent. Totally freakin’ airless.

Fortunately, there was an occasional breeze which, if you were in the shade when it blew through, was delicious! The sun was bright and steady. It made for a tough haul in trimming and mowing the yard today. With one short break and a conversation with a neighbor, I still managed to get done by 11. I spent the next 30-45 minutes cleaning everything up and getting ready for a run to the dump.

By the time I got the car loaded, I was drenched and a bit on the exhausted side. I went inside and spent the next 40 minutes cooling down. Finally taking a shower was akin to a religious experience.

I guess though that I’d better get used to it. It’s supposed to be at or near 100 degrees for the next week. YIKES!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bearcats, Columns and Fountains – Oh, My!

It doesn’t happen often that I get to meet someone that I “know” online. In fact, it has only happened one other time when I had the pleasure of meeting Beth Anne from The Seventh Level of Boredom.

I might have gotten to meet Vicky from Not So SAHM if she hadn’t been doing a virtual fly-by of downtown. But other than that, its been online forums, emails, comments, etc. from my fellow bloggers and Georgers.

But on Friday, I got to meet TWO Georgers! “Scrunchee” lives in the St. Louis area but Mary lives in California. She is visiting family in Illinois, northern Illinois at that, but she drove down to St. Louis for a visit. I met here and Scrunchee at Square One in the Lafayette neighborhood. I hadn’t been in that part of town for a while and what a joy it was.

Our late lunch lasted three hours! And it went by quick. Mary and Scrunchee are both teachers and, as if that wasn’t a challenging enough job, they teach at-risk kids. My hat is truly off to both of them. They are both great gals.

We met at a brew pub called Square One. (I got the distinct feeling that I’d been there before when it was something else but it’s possible it just reminded me of another place.) Despite the fact that it was 90 degrees, we braved the courtyard patio. It turned out to be an amazingly pleasant place, mostly shaded, offering the breeze of two fans and the relaxing sounds and view of a fountain. This is the backdrop of that fountain that was capped off by a rectangular basin about a foot deep.

I’d love to have seen the building that the doorway once graced! Mary and I had Scrunchee (who is camera shy) take our picture in front of it.

The inside had just as many architectural offerings but I didn’t really spend any time inside. I’ll save that for a future visit. Outside in the courtyard though we were under the watchful eyes of a pair of these lion/bear heads.
They reminded me a lot of Louis Sullivan's bearcats so I was naturally smitten with them.

There was also this Romanesque column to enhance the scenery.

Good food. Good folks. Great atmosphere. And a pleasant July day in St. Louis. You can’t really ask for much more than that. And, contented as I was, I certainly didn’t expect it. But, as our party dissolved and we went our separate ways, I was immediately taken with many of the homes on adjacent blocks.

So, guess who went for a walk? And took about 60 photos in 45 minutes. More to come …

Friday, July 15, 2011

Keeping Track of Warranties

I got a letter last week from Maytag informing me that the warranty on the refrigerator we had purchased in 2009 was expiring this week. I knew that couldn’t be right. I distinctly remembered having purchased extended warranties on both the stove and refrigerator last year.

I flipped through my checkbook register and found entries for both a Frigidaire and some off name extended service program. For the off name, I’d paid $159 on June 30, 2010. No WAY that was for one year! (Maybe there are programs that cost that much; I don’t pay that much!) I drug out our trusty dusty home journal book where thankfully I HAD stored the warranty contract I’d received in the mail. (Instead of stowing it in the bill drawer which I would normally do and where it might never be seen again.)

It was definitely for our Maytag refrigerator. And it said the warranty was effective from July 10, 2010, through July 10, 2014! OK. Great. I wasn’t off the beam after all.

What I found out is that even though the mail I got had the Maytag logo on it, it may or may not have really been from Maytag. I pulled one of the letters I’d gotten last year soliciting the protection program I ultimately bought and it looked almost identical to the one I got last week.
(Just a different address and same coverage at cheaper rates.)

What I learned is that both the manufacturer and the retail outlet you buy from (in this case, Home Depot) either provide or contract with warranty service organizations. Apparently, they compete against each other for your warranty dollar.

So, before you purchase an appliance warranty, here’s a couple tips.

  • See if there’s another option available.

  • Know for sure WHICH organization you’re contracting with.

  • Keep any and all paperwork, including the check number or credit card info for your transaction.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Holiday Project

I didn’t see any fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend. I saw lots and lots of bricks though.

That’s because I finally got around to that landscaping project that kept eluding me. Or, more accurately, the first phase of it. This involved taking up about two dozen landscaping timber pieces (which I loathed, hated and despised), chopping them up for disposal, and replacing them at the edge of the concrete slab our shed sits on with brick.

When I started, the area around the slab looked a lot like this. (This is an older photo, pre-pimped shed -- notice the dimple in the back wall -- but you can see how the timbers were used.) The timbers ranged from 3 to 4 feet in length and were stacked two deep.

I started working on Sunday but the on again/off again rain which eventually blew in as a storm around 5 p.m., meant that I barely got the timbers removed and chopped up. In between mini-showers and sunshine on Monday (the Fourth) I was able to get prep work under way AND lay down the short side of bricks.

I think there were originally timbers there when we bought This D*mn House and that these were the replacement models. Like they did everything else, the POs did this in a weird way, too.

Apparently, on the shorter side, they didn’t dig as deeply as on the longer side. This meant that I had to stack two rows of bricks on the shorter side, but three rows on the longer one. And, it meant that I had to stagger them so that I could get the 90-degree intersection of the two sides to meet up.

With some patience to get them as level as I could (which wasn’t all that level in some cases) by digging or filling in with a sand/mortar mix, I finally got them to line up. I still need to go back and mortar the lines a bit, but it all seems to have dried nicely.

I don’t know about you, but I like the bricks a thousand times better than I ever could those stupid landscape timbers!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pool Party!

With all the hot summer days, there has been plenty of activity around our pool. Oh. Haven't I shown you our new pool.? Here it is.
That's Frank. And Jemmy is getting a drink. And in the pool? That's a newcomer. She is a third tag-along duck. (Or maybe it's a he. I think it's a girl.) Since she is the first to actually get IN the pool, which she does multiple times each day, the mother has started calling her Esther Williams.
And so there they are. Frank, Jemmy and Esther. Everyone is being quite well-behaved.
Some other friends even join the crowd, but steering fairly clear of the pool itself.And still, quiet swimming and drinking goes on.

Looks like Frank has decided that it's time to head for home. Out of the pool, Esther! But apparently, that idea doesn't go over too well ...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Learning About Ducks

Until this week, what I knew about ducks was pretty limited. In fact, I'd say the following pretty much sums up the majority of my prior knowledge:

  • Donald, Daisy, Daffy ... and Howard

  • Quack and AFLAC!

  • Feathers, bills and webbed feet

  • They're are several different varieties.

  • They fly and like water.

  • Ducklings are cute.

Yep. I think that about covers it. But, after Frank and Jemmy arrived in May, I quickly learned the differences between a mallard drake and a hen. Pretty easy to tell. The male is the "pretty" colored one. Females are a drab, mottled brown. Pretty easy indeed. Or so I thought.

I took that photo on May 11. During the next few weeks, I noticed that Frank's colors were becoming less vibrant and that his head was just growing darker. The change was so gradual that I didn't really notice it ... at first. Then I discovered, quite by accident, that Frank was missing a foot. That got me doing side-by-side comparisons of weeks' worth of photos.

Wait ... this isn't even the same duck! In fact, that duck looks suspiciously more like a female.

Except, it really IS the same duck! Notice the little flecks of green/purple on his head and neck. And, at the very end of his neck, see the white stripe? That is what remains of Frank's ultra identifiable feathers. He is now sporting eclipse plumage.

And when does this normally occur with mallard ducks? The process starts in mid- to late June -- after mating season. He won't get his "pretty boy" feathers back until fall when he'll once more begin wooing girls for the spring!

This might also explain what happened to Frank's foot. Because the process renders him at least temporarily flightless, he may not have been able to completely outrun a dog or cat. Or, being grounded, got himself trapped in a fence or pen.

Now this all makes sense! If you can't fly so good, the last thing you want to do is be really easy for a predator to spot. Thus, the drakes turn more of the drab brown colors. Even his bill, once kind of a vibrant yellow-green, is now like algae green. (Females always have a brown or orange bill so that's one way to tell the difference at this phase.)

Did you know this about ducks?! I sure didn't. And I'm geekily fascinated by it. Nature can be down right amazing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just A Shell

If this doesn't make you want to weep, then you were never aboard the SS Admiral.

I took this earlier this week during one of my lunchtime walks. I had caught a glimpse of the Admiral one day a few weeks ago when the bus was rerouted over the MLK. I didn't think it was even here anymore because I'd heard they had started tearing her apart back in March or April. She was then to head upriver to Alton for "final disposition." More than a century of history goes with her.

I walked down to the Landing on a whim and found this. Turns out my prediction, made in this post about the Admiral last year, was dead-on: she's headed for the scrap heap. Seems like a waste of a gem of a boat. It's like having part of your childhood thrown into a dump.

I prefer now to always think of her like this, as she was 70 years ago in all her steel-clad glory, just a few years into her regeneration from an old steamer called the Albatross.

The Admiral, c. 1941, University of Missouri Archives

Ladybird Rides Again!

Last Friday, I got a phone call providing me with a five-word, life-altering phrase: "It's NOT the head gasket."

Whew! I was terrified this time last week that Ladybird had taken her last flight. But I'm happy to report that one water pump and several hundred dollars later, she is back on the road! We got her back on Tuesday evening. (Which surprised me; I didn't think I'd see her before THURSDAY.)

I made her feel right at home by promptly loading her up with yard waste and heading for the dump. She was happy to comply. She's a very good girl and is going to get a good scrubbin' down this weekend.

So, life is good again in our driveway. Now, to deal with Pearl's hail damage ... an an airbag-related safety recall. Nice.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A War on Three Fronts

I wrote this column a few weeks ago. I wasn't going to post it, content to leave it as a stress-relieving rant. But after hearing of developments in the President's latest round of "negotiations" (negotiations meaning "I'll lay here and you steam-roller me flat")I'm going to put it out there.

People were worried that this president is "secretly" a Muslim. That wouldn't bother me if he was. I'm worried he's "secretly" a Republican.

The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. – Pres. Barack Obama, inaugural address

We are a nation at war on three fronts. Not in Iraq. Not in Afghanistan. Not in Libya. But right here, within our own boundaries, fighting amongst ourselves. Over class. Over race. Over age. The only thing united about these war fronts is that they are all tethered to the pitiful state of our economy.

The Class War. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ has grown at an almost unprecedented rate during the past 30 years. (At the rate things are going, that decline will accelerate as the gap continues to widen.) You’re lucky to be employed. And even if you can find a job after being unemployed, a salary remotely comparable to the one you last had is probably out of the question.

What’s seriously wrong with this picture? In 2008, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10 percent of personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent. So, less than 1/10th of 1 percent of working people made 1/10th of all income. In 1975, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in about 2.5 percent of U.S. personal income. (These stats are part of a great Washington Post article examining the widening income gap in America.)

Who owns most of this wealth? Corporate executives.

America wouldn’t be America if it was right to begrudge success. And defenders argue that executives warrant their brain-numbing salaries because business is “bigger and more complex” today and that the compensation is tied to the performance of the companies they lead. Really?

That’s not what the research shows. Consider: Researchers Raghavendra Rau and Huseyin Gulen of Purdue University and Michael J. Cooper of the University of Utah surveyed the performance of 1,500 companies between 1994 and 2006 and found that “lavish CEO compensation may in fact undermine shareholder wealth.” The researchers concluded that “the 10 percent of companies with the most highly paid CEOs earned unusually low returns in both the near- and long-term.”

The Race War. You’d think that more than 145 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, this would be over. But no. And, unfortunately, it’s not just limited to a single race. Aren’t white? You apparently qualify. I’m appalled by the number of people who use the phrase, “Send ‘em back.” Really? Show me your ancestry, pal. Unless it’s 100 percent Native American Indian (the people we stole this country from) then you are a guest, too. Where would you like to be sent back to?

I can’t wait to see how the radical right will respond to the recent report about the birth rate of “non-white” babies now outpacing white babies. Trust me, this is going to be a headline for the anti-abortion movement— if it isn’t already.

There is always some whippin’ boy in American society. While racial profiling is supposed to be illegal, its goes on all the time. And there’s a disproportionate number of people of color in prison. If you don’t have the “right” color of skin, then maybe you don’t worship the “right” way either. It’s a great way to keep all of “sorta haves” and “have nots” pitted against one another, isn’t it?

The Age War. I saw a comment to a story talking about the number of retirees who rely on Social Security as their primary income source. It was from a young kid, bragging about the fact that they had already saved $10,000 toward their retirement and just didn’t understand how these retirees couldn’t have managed to have saved for their retirement. Well, of course, this youngster doesn’t.

He/she didn’t live and work through the 1980s. He/she didn’t LOSE their retirement, after decades of saving, in a single day on Wall Street. He/she has not yet fallen victim to the fact that, during the past three decades, wages have stagnated while the cost of living has continued to spiral skyward.

Again, the economy, pitting us against one another for resources. Retirement. Jobs (if you aren’t old enough to retire). Basic survival.

Right now, kids can’t get summer jobs because they’re being filled by older people who can’t find anything else. There are proposals around the country to abolish child labor laws and to pay students BELOW minimum wage. For those of us under 55 but within 20-30 years of retirement, just who is it that is going to employ us into our 70s? Let’s just do it the way they did it a century ago: work ‘til you drop or slink off into the night to starve to death once you’re shown the door.

So where does it end? And how?

I say it ends here, today, right now. And it ends by getting together as a people. Let’s stop fighting amongst ourselves – and start fighting FOR ourselves …with them! That’s going to mean facing some realities.

· Cutting taxes will neither stimulate growth nor create jobs. It didn’t when Ronald Reagan started it; it won’t today.
· Our Congressmen, who make six-figure incomes, need to stop disrespecting the people who pay those salaries – and begrudging decent wages to people who earn significantly less than they do. How full of yourself you must be to think what you do is so much more valuable than the work of teachers, policemen, firefighters and nurses.
· Politicians don’t care about anything but their careers. If they did, they would be concerned about doing things that are best for all of us as a people – not for their respective parties.

Mr. President … remember that inauguration quote? Mr. Boehner … how about you ask yourself "where are the jobs?"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Eads (and America, too)!

It’s the Fourth of July and the birthday of our nation – Happy Birthday, USA!

During this country’s first century, work was under way on a structure that would span the Mississippi, connecting St. Louis to its neighbors to the immediate east in Illinois. The Eads Bridge was officially dedicated on July 4, 1874.

Here she is. (With the spans of the infinitely newer Martin Luther King Bridge visible in the background.)

Construction on the mile-long bridge, at a cost of $10 million, had started in August 1867. The three-span, ribbed steel, deck arch design was the brainchild of Capt. James B. Eads, a hydraulic river engineer who had built iron clad gunboats for the Union during the Civil War. It would be his first and only bridge Eads was obsessed with the perfect foundation, convinced that the foundations should reach bedrock. This obsession was no doubt encouraged by an 1868 trip to Europe. The result: the Eads Bridge foundation is 136 feet below high water on the east pier, the deepest pneumatic caisson ever constructed.

Quite a feat for the time. Because he was familiar with the depths below the river from recovering sunken warships, Eads knew a lot about diving. But not everything.

During the caisson construction, 14 men died of the bends.

Things got off to a rocky start once consruction finshed, too. While the first train through its tunnel had been adjusted, the body of the train remained a few inches wider, causing it to scrape the sides and assault its passengers with smoke and an unpleasant smell. But that would be the least of its worries.

Initially serving a single railroad, other lines boycotted the new bridge. It created an untenable financial situation, forcing the bridge into receivership and to be auctioned in 1878. In 1889, the Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) assumed ownership.
The bridge was the first major structure constructed with steel as its primary metal. It had the largest spans of any bridge at the time and in total length it would remain unrivaled until 1932. (In the photo above, from the University of Missouri archives, youngsters aboard the Admiral in 1941 peer out onto the Eads.)

The bridge became a National Historical Landmark in 1964 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places four years later. By the 1970s, it had been displaced as a railroad bridge and the tracks were removed around 1974.

The bridge was closed for more than a decade, starting in the mid-‘90s. When the Eads finally did reopen, my beloved McKinley Bridge was still closed so it was such welcome relief.

A lot of people didn’t know it had reopened so for a long time it was a well-kept secret that made my occasional drives to work a breeze.

Today, the bridge is a throwback to its history, once again carrying both cars and train traffic. This time though the train is the MetroLink, St. Louis’ version of the subway.

And it’s just as beautiful now and I never miss a chance to catch a glimpse of it and marvel at it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Craigslist: The Summertime Money Maker

I had a busy week and the weekend hasn’t slowed the pace a step. I’ve been trying to work through the heat and it hasn’t been easy. And seriously slowing my progress. So, while I’m out sweating my butt off, here’s a guest post for your perusal. Seems like there's some great ways to make a few extra bucks this summer! Isabella York at Balsam Hill was kind enough to share this post telling how. Read on...

By Isabella York

Craigslist: The Summertime Money Maker

Summer, more often than not, is the time for home improvement projects. With the school year finally over, this period offers the best opportunity to get your teenagers' help with the gardening or even fence repainting (you might have to bribe them with several dollars for this one though!)

In our family, the dry, hot months of summer means cleaning the house and getting out our brushes, power tools and all the other stuff from the garage to make our home feel brand spanking new. As we were getting ready to landscape the front yard just last month, we pulled out a still healthy hedge that lined the front foot path to make room for a small fence. My boy remarked that it would be a good idea to sell it on Craigslist, the open market for anything that you wanted an ad for. After ten minutes of posting on Craigslist, we already had three people interested in buying it! This got me and my husband thinking about other items that may be worth selling on the site, and after looking around the house for more stuff, we came up with this list:

  1. Parts and items from home improvement projects that have not come into fruition. For us in the home improvement hobbyist world, we often come into our garage and find odds and ends, and other items that are part of projects that have failed, succeeded or forgotten. These items are gems to the Craigslist ad world, where people try to find little things they might not necessarily pay for full price out in stores. Upgraded your doors and found the old one lying around? Those are perfect for selling! Just make sure you put the dimensions on right. Cans of spray paint you barely used would also be perfect for do-it-yourselfers wanting good deals. Take note of the stuff you've set aside for projects you don't ever think you're going to get back to, and sell them online. You may even buy new stuff for better, newer projects in the future with the money you make from these!

  2. Spare parts and accessories of a car already sold. If you happen to have spare parts of a car that you've already sold, these could really sell well on the site! We got rid of our 2000 Honda Accord five years ago, but still had some parts lying around. A box of spark plugs, an old caliper, a couple of car mats and an old car cover gone, we made about $100 from car enthusiasts who were on the lookout for cheaper auto parts online. Some of our customers have even asked us to reserve for them any other car accessories that we may find lying in the house in the near future.

  3. Appliances that have zonked out. There are a lot of fixer uppers out there, who love to buy stuff we consider junk, fix it up, and sell it as refurbished items. A few of our old appliances like our microwave, toaster and waffle irons are apparently very easy to fix, and go for quite a bit more than your neighborhood junkyard.

  4. Old furniture.In the process of building your dream home, you are bound to collect a few furniture pieces that warrant a "What was I thinking when I bought that?" a few years later, and kept in the garage until you've found a better place for it. I have seen one woman's design nightmare change into another's dream online. Somehow, old furniture is one of the easiest items to sell on Craigslist, especially for collectors and designers. Just make sure you've cleaned it out and repaired the few rips on upholstery that have accumulated over the years.

  5. Musical instruments. Tried to teach yourself guitar or the drums but realized you were just making noise? Musical instruments are a category of the better selling items on the site, as musicians are always looking out for gear or other items to add to their collections. Even just a drum cymbal or a guitar pickup can be several dollars each so go post it online! If you have no idea how much it goes for, check music forums and ask for advice. They usually give a straight answer on how much these things cost.

With the onset of home improvements, and the cleaning out process that comes with it, you can actually make money on items you may consider junk! So take out those brushes and prepare for a home improvement project that is not only fulfilling design wise, but also in the wallet. Make money of the stuff you've accumulated throughout the years (and during the spurts of your inner DIY-er), and get the funding for bigger and better projects that will last you until the next season!

Isabella York is a dedicated working mother. She works for Balsam Hill, a purveyor of Artificial Christmas Trees in traditional and modern styles, and assorted other Christmas Trees.