Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Bathroom Reveal

It's a tiny bathroom. So tiny that I had some difficulty in even taking these photos. But if it'so small, you might ask, WHY did it take so long? Well, if you ask that question, you've obviously never lived through a remodel of a bathroom in a one-bathroom house. That, details, and a series of curveballs from life resulted in a project of more than three and a half years from start to finish. But, for your viewing curiosity, here goes ...

First, here's the view from the doorway, looking up.

Once you're in the door, if you turn right, you'll find this scene above the sink. The mother  and I both love the addition of that clock.
This is really supposed to be the FIRST photo from outside the door, but Blogger is being difficult AGAIN! (Give you an idea of how my floor -- installed in 2009 -- helps pull it all together.)

This is the back of the commode and a closer look at the detail on the medicine cabinet.  I mitred those corners!

On the wall to your left, you'll see this orate shelf and two shadow boxes created by the mother.

This table sits below that shelf. The cast iron boot was carefully detailed by the mother and features one of her arrangements.

So, that's it. I can say I don't think the photos quite do it justice but I'm probably biased. I still haven't gotten completely used to it yet. It's really a good feeling to see 2012 wind down and being able to check the box on this exceptionally long-term project! Now, it's upward and onward.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Miracle

It's Christmas Eve and just guess what I did? Yes, I FINISHED the bathroom!

It took a bit of doing but I managed it. Except for a bit of touch-up paint – which that bad boy will get tomorrow – and the mother's final knick-knack staging, it is done! Put the last piece of trim up a little over an hour ago while "A Christmas Story" was on.

Folks, it's a Christmas miracle!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Long Winter's Nap

Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? I wonder …

Well, for those of you who have decided to stick around despite my sporadic-at-best postings, I thank you. A lot has been going on, hence my silence.

I was busy with things like stuffing a stocking for a 9-year-old boy. Fun stuff! And, I gathering  gifts for his 13-year-old sister. The stockings are part of our annual holiday charity program at work, an effort I have been heading up for the past several years. Things were being picked up and/or delivered last Friday. And this past Friday, we were able to send out two gift cards – for $640 each – to two families we adopted in the Northeast. We also helped 10 senior citizens ,10 developmentally disabled adults and an early childhood program get things for the holidays!

Tomorrow, I will start my sixth week of full-time status again – which means my second full-time paycheck is right around the corner. Hallelujah! Things have been insanely busy and going pretty well for the most part. (Reaching for wood to knock on.) Hoping that it continues on this way.

On the home front, I did yard work a few weekends ago – despite nursing a torn tendon in my right arm. That little injury (caused by overuse, according to the doctor) has slowed me considerably. The bathroom is still NOT complete, in part because I can't use a caulk gun or drill or saw without considerable difficulty. 

The good news is that after almost two months of battling it, I FINALLY got some relief earlier this month in the form of a prescription cream and special treatments to apply it. Longer-term, I've had to change the way I use computers (both at home and at work), not pick up heavy stuff and not do anything too strenuous so as to set back the progress I've made.

We've also been cleaning, cleaning, cleaning! Am working now to finish up my room. Then, it's off into the pre-holiday insanity to fetch our Christmas ham and the rest of the fixings! Whatever you'r e doing today, I hope it is filled with the spirit of the holiday season.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Today is a day to reflect on and give thanks for those things and circumstances that make our lives what they are.

While some days my complaints are many, I have much to be grateful for.

I am thankful for the family ties I have, limited though they may be. I am doubly blessed by having a battery of friends who more than amply fill the gaps. Collectively, it is their love and support that I think is my greatest gift.

I am thankful to be employed (and, at long last, full-time again!) at a time when so many are without jobs. I'm equally grateful to have leaders within my company who believed enough in the value I could bring to restore my position.

I am thankful for my basic good health – and for insurance that allows me to address those issues I do have.
I am thankful to have a home, despite its never-ending list of projects and issues.

I am thankful to be an American in a country where democracy – despite many ongoing attempts to squelch it – still exists. For all of its flaws and persistent issues, I think it's still the best thing going.

And finally, I am thankful for all of you, that steadfast following of blog readers who bother to keep up with my incredibly sporadic posts. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing today, I hope it is a day filled with joy, peace and love.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


So often in the past year or so I've been freaked out by something. So often that I should be used to it. Apparently, I'm not.

Today was no exception. This time though it was in a GOOD way. Guess who returns to work full-time on Nov. 15? Go ahead. Guess. I'll wait. Yes, that's right: ME!

After 14 months of keeping my chin up and my mouth shut, (16 months if you add in Ozzie's cancer diagnosis) I get something really and truly GOOD.

I'm not going to take it for granted. I am though going to enjoy a little bit of easier breathing. It's not like we've been destitute; hardly! But, it was a loss that pretty much wiped out my "disposable" income and brought my savings efforts to a complete halt.

I am humbled. I am grateful. And best of all, I am downright giddy! It's a feeling I could get used to.

So, to keep that feeling going, I'm going to "feed" it. And, I'm going to feed it a pumpkin pie Blizzard. Consider it a celebratory treat!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Worst Case Scenario

For the past few weeks, the mother has been on my case about two things: getting the shed doors fixed and getting Ladybird ready for winter.

On the latter, I had a "car episode" earlier this month in which I managed to find – in the space of 10 minutes – that BOTH cars had technical difficulties. I'm happy to report that both cars are once again mechanically sound, an experience that left my bank account a few hundred dollars smaller. But, neither was a "worst case scenario." Whew! And, I still have some to winterize Ladybird now that she is done logging hours in the shop.

On the shed … the weather hasn't been in my favor. I tried for almost two weeks to find the winning combination of 1) a day I could take off work (it's open enrollment season and year end, so very busy) 2) a warm, dry day and 3) a combination of 1 and 2 on which Lawrence was also available. Finally, yesterday was that day. What I thought would take a few hours took four times that. And, what I thought would be our biggest problem wasn't. It was worse. Much worse.

It was so bad in fact that Lawrence uttered a phrase about as negative as it ever gets with him: "That isn't good." Remember when I "pimped" the shed during 2008 (inside) and 2009 (outside)? Lawrence quickly added: "It's a good thing you did what you did or this wall might be gone." This wall referred to the outside front wall, on the side nearest the house. As he pulled away the last piece of plywood from the inside, I saw that the original wall had completely deteriorated, compromising both the outer and inner layers in which I'd encased it. OY!

And I thought the front beam, running adjacent to the opening for the doors, was the worst of it. NOT! For about the past year or so, the rotten wood has taken to raining down every time one of the doors is opened or closed. Not a good scene.

The good news is that Lawrence was up for the challenge and completely oblivious to the thundercloud that loomed above us, starting around lunch time. At that point, the shed was opened up like a tin can, with both doors and the wall in question removed. The sky began to blacken and the wind picked up with ferocity. "What are you going to do to keep the rain out? You aren't going to get those doors back on ahead of the storm," the mother said.

Lawrence, never missing a beat, both answered her question and ignored the comment that had followed it: "I'm going to shut the doors," he said matter-of-factly. I love Lawrence!

About 90 minutes later, he did just that.

We replaced the outer wall and part of the inner wall behind it. He replaced the door frame, put both doors back in, adjusted the main door so that the damn thing finally closes properly and then helped me carefully replace the outside boards. I now have some caulking and painting to do (hoping for a 65-degree or more day soon to do that) but the structure is once again sound. It was a lot of work, but man is it a great feeling to open the shed door and not have rotting wood debris raining on your head!

A Year

It's been a year …

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of life without Ozzie. Hard to think it's been that long. Other times it's harder to think it hasn't been longer.

How I have missed having this view of the world to greet me each day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shades of Morning

The morning sky is falling into place.

It takes shape a layer at a time. A layer of purple, a layer of blue, a layer of orange. A layer of pink is thrown somewhat unevenly across the top. Peering at it from my 19th-story perch, it’s as if even the sky is amassing blankets (albeit mismatched, multicolored ones) to brave the brisk pre-dawn air.

I got an interesting perspective on the arrival of daybreak, hiking in from the Landing. When I hike in from that train stop, I am practically ON the river. The walk in leads me up an ascending hill that runs parallel to the Arch (and that makes my heart pound by the time I crest the top.) It takes me past one of the best preserved streets in downtown St. Louis. (Fourth Street, from Washington to Pine.) Well, one half of it anyway. Except for a modern-day parking garage interrupting at Olive, the half of the street that I must cross to looks almost exactly as it has since the 1920s. (And even then, some of its occupant edifices were already in middle age!)

The combined view of nature and historic architecture (and a sudden blast of wind in the 40-degree air) provide a better jolt than the tallest cup of caffeine. I am awake, aware and alive. Even briefly, it feels good to be in my shoes. (Especially since they are my black patent leather loafers that I have affectionately dubbed my “cop shoes.” They are far from the most stylish of my footwear but are among my favorites. An affable, though not always tactful, colleague once asked me if I’d been in the military since my shoes were so shiny.)

As I go to claim my coffee, Josh, the foreign-born clerk, is dutifully reading the morning paper aloud. As I shell out my money, he gets a serious look on his face. “Let me ask you something,” he begins. “If there is to be a cold front, should the temperature not be cold? Yet they say the temperature will be in the 70s.”

I don’t have a degree in meteorology but I do my best to convey a reasonable facsimile of what I heard the weatherman say last night: the front is supposed to move through rather quickly, being pushed out by warmer air. This seems to sate Josh’s current quest for knowledge.

And so, armed with coffee, I am off to pursue my own.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


It was a busy, busy, busy day at the office. And things didn't slow down when I got home.

The mother was dutifully painting the foundation. So, I joined her outside and got to a task that I didn't get to as part of the annual outdoor cleaning: the fence. Our eight-panel, vinyl privacy fence. Our fence that was filthy and, thanks to me, covered with black scuff marks along the bottom fifth from getting too close with the mower and weedeater.

It was a beautiful afternoon as the sun triumphantly emerged after a morning buried in clouds. And I spent it with a bucket, a hose, a full-size brush, a scrub brush and a fistful of Mr. Clean Erasers. Washing all eight 4x6 panels. Both sides.

This is Step One in repairing said vinyl fence. (The fence, which much like Pearl, was battered by golfball-sized hail during Easter Week 2011.) I have to carefully fill several holes and then caulk them. Luckily, it's only on about three or four of those panels.

That's tomorrow's to-do for when I get home. Fun times.

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 Signs of a Serial DIYer

Think you can spot a serial DIYer? Well, maybe you can.

Here are five warning signs to help you easily pick us out of a crowd. You might know (or be) a serial DIYer if ...

1. Disposable drop cloths have a permanent space on your shopping list. (And among the Top 3 items.)

2. Paint, fillers, caulk and adhesives have their own kitchen cabinet.

3. A drill is as permanent a bathroom fixture as the commode -- and used nearly as much.

4. Watching Doppler on The Weather Channel qualifies as "exciting television."

5. And finally, staff at the local Home Depot and Lowe's stores know you by name AND what you're working on.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Inside and Out

"So you're working on your house …"

That's what the guy two seats up said to me after listening intently to a conversation I'd had with one of my fellow bus riders. (A rider I knew from when I rode the bus every day for a few years.) Because of the threat of severe storms for most of last week, I took to riding the bus again.

I gave a one-word response: Yes.

"What are you working on?"

The temptation to tell him what I am NOT working on was almost too hard to resist, but I managed. Again, a one-word response: Everything. 

And lately, it's true.

Yesterday, for example, we scrubbed the house. This annual event -- usually done in July -- is a pain-staking procedure, in part because the mother has a method and you do not deviate from the method. (The good news is that I was able to go off on my own and run the activity my way while she dealt with other stuff. That's the ONLY reason the house itself got finished.)

Today will be about putting everything, which is now ideally dry, back into place and scrubbing down the few things that didn't get scrubbed when we ran out of daylight. And about mowing. (I tried to tell the mother I should mow FIRST and THEN scrub the house, but … I didn't win the argument.) So, today, I will hear about "the mess" that will inevitably occur when I mow. Sigh.

I snuck in some time one day last week to do a few nip/tucks to the last of the bathroom trim, so ideally, that will go up this week. And then maybe I can focus on ONE thing again for a while.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Plan E

They say the fifth time is a charm.

OK. Maybe they don’t say that, but it seems to be the reality for trying to finish the bathroom. “Plan E” is what I’ve settled on, having gone all the way through Plan F with options.

The weekend was gorgeous. Sunny. Dry. Highs near 70. Saturday was a little blustery with winds gusting up to 30 mph but Sunday? It was perfection.

The mother wanted to scrub the house down (an annual occurrence) but it was too cool in the early mornings (45-50) to play outside with water and I needed to catch up on the recently reappeared yard AND cut the final trim boards for the bathroom. (I would like to finish it this century.) I spent all weekend outside. The weather made me not resent that too much.

You may recall that the trim along the top of the shower surround is the LAST job of any real consequence (besides hanging a few of the mother’s manillion decorative items).

You might also recall that Plan A was to use porcelain 1x6 tiles to both fill the corner gaps and to give a finished look to that edge. I wisely changed my mind. Plan B was to use the trim that I’ve use in myriad other ways throughout the bathroom. (Thin wood trim that matches the chair rail I put up.) The mother put the kibosh on that.

Plan C was something else I don’t even remember but something that never got out of my head. Plan D was “cellular vinyl” exterior trim. My plan was to use it, miter the corners, the thickness of the two boards, ideally filling the rounded corners of the surround. Except that didn’t quite work.

Plan E then become a combination of Plan D and an abandoned element of Plan: corner joiners. This little blocks, which come in a variety of materials, shapes and styles, allow you to join up two corners without mitres. I didn’t mind the mitering; it just left an awkward gap. The joiner fills it pretty close to perfect.

On Sunday, I managed to get the odd little trim pieces cut AND the three pieces for the shower. Carelessly, I left the one that I had carefully cut to allow for the showerhead, temporarily in place while I measured and then cut the longer piece that it will join. I came in from cutting the long piece to find my perfectly-fitted piece laying in the bathtub … and neatly snapped in two where it fits around the showerhead. So, I’m hoping that when I install that part, I can meld the pieces back together with some caulk and a little paint.

For now, Plan E is still the plan. Plan F involves pieces that won’t work. So, should my nifty little knit together idea fails, I guess there will be a Plan G.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wishful Thinking Again

I wish I could say that my absence from the blog has been due to all of the incredible progress I made, allowing me to finish the bathroom.

Instead, I spent most of the weekend lounging or in bed, battling yet ANOTHER sinus infection. (Thank you, uber screwy weather.) I didn't even mow for fear I'd further aggravate things. So, nothing got done. Nothing.

It really sucks, too, because the mother has moved on to a multitude of other inter-related and unrelated projects. (She truly is ADHD.) As I type this, I'm sitting here with a flannel sheet wrapped around me, feeling crappy. (A bad day at work didn't help either.)

It poured this morning and was still raining steady when I left work. Now though, the sun is trying to come out.

It can only get better, right?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Say That Again

The mother: I really like how that’s looking.
Me (in an astonished tone): What? The bathroom?
The mother: Uh-huh.
Wait. Who are you? And where’s my mother?! For the past few weeks, all I’ve heard come out of the mother’s mouth is: “It’s too white. I hate white.” Funny. This is the same woman who fought with me three years ago over painting the faux tin ceiling panels black. And the same woman who, just a month or so ago, put up almost as big a fight when I said I wanted the chair rail and quarter-round black, too. Even so, she's still partial to the off-white/beigy/pale yellow color that was there before.
Generally, I leave designing to the mother; I’m more of an order-taker in that department. Occasionally though I feel strongly about something. And, I felt pretty strongly about off-setting all that white with some bold statements of black. (And thank you, Karen Anne, for your choice of the word “stunning” in describing the new black trim. I am still grinning over that one.)
I’m down to a few pieces of trim. Trim which managed to set off another battle between the mother and I. This time, I wanted to use a thin rope-style wood trim – painted black – to serve as a transition between the wallpaper and the tub surround. This wasn’t an issue with our old tub surround as it went up almost to the ceiling. (This is a shot from 2009, back before we got the new tub surround.) See how the surround is separated from the molding by a thin strip of wallpaper? That's no longer the case. You may recall the debacle that ensued when this surround was replaced on the hope of putting in what was an awesome surround -- but that wouldn't fit!

So, right from the start, the bathroom design had changed and I inherited 16 more inches of wall space to cover on the three sides of the shower. But back to the trim. I wallpapered that inherited space from the new molding that meets the ceiling down to the top of the new (now 3-year-old) surround. It wasn't a pretty transition so it needed something. "If you put that wood up there, it will rot," the mother insisted. I don't think it's quite that tragic but admittedly, it will get an occasional water splash and it will always be subject to steam. What could I use? This was a dilemma over the holiday weekend.

My first thought was some of the boards I'd used on the shed. Nothing fancy there though. But as I walked away, something at the opposite end of the molding aisle caught my eye: cellular vinyl DECORATIVE exterior trim. YES! Essentially, it's hardcore plastic (PVC). And paintable. And not that expensive. (A little over a $1 a foot.) Double YES! That's what I painted Monday afternoon ... and have yet to install. I'll get to it. I've just pushed so hard that I gave myself a little downtime.
It's been so funny to look at pictures like this. The bathroom HAS changed. In some ways, a lot. In some ways, not that much. But, in putting together ALL OF THE ELEMENTS old and new ... the change is pretty impressive. Photos to come soon, I promise!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hey … What's That Green Stuff?

Oh. My. God. IT's GRASS!

For the first time all summer, we got serious rain. And we got it not once, not twice but three times in the same week. Following last Friday evening's soaker, all of a sudden we had a yard again. For me, not having to mow and weed eat has been the silver lining of the season's extreme temperatures and subsequent drought.

I never realized that I really did miss it.

Especially now, now that the yard is mowed and neatly trimmed and the associated mess cleaned up and (as of this afternoon) hauled away. Driving up to the house today, it was nice to see. Of course, it required a detour from my existing to-do list. That seems to be a theme around here though.

It took a good chunk of Sunday to complete. And, because I was busy with that, and because the wind was a little on the blustery side, I didn't get the last of the trim for the bathroom painted. (I sprayed it.) I rectified that today. It's all getting good and dry now downstairs. Now, to get it cut AND up.

I did manage to accomplish lining out the rest of the hardware for the bathroom (glass Victorian knobs). A quick trip to Home Depot remedied that this afternoon. (I needed, of all things, a wingnut.)

So, I'm happy to report, the bathroom is officially in the home stretch. Super YAY! Stay tuned for details …

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Not So Funny Joke

Do you remember how comedians used to regularly start jokes like, "My wife is SOOO fat …" and wait for the corresponding, "How fat IS she?" response from the audience? Remember those jokes?

My bathroom IS one of those jokes. And I'm not laughing.

Yesterday afternoon I was moving right along, managing to cut the quarter-round with only ONE mitred angle error when I made a rather nasty discovery that begins with: My bathroom is SOOOO small. How small is it? So small that I can't get a 46-inch piece of quarter-round to the wall in a single piece – without dismantling plumbing at one end or the other. ARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!

There's another option, of course. It means cutting the piece. And that sucks. I've not decided yet whether I'm going to do it or not or if I'm brave enough to put on my plumber's hat. (I'm of the school that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'm of that school because the lessons I've had have taught me time and again to NOT go mucking with things within This D*mn House that are otherwise sound … it's generally not a risk worth taking.)

How can a 30-square-foot room be this difficult? The finish line is definitely within reach but looks like it's going to be one helluva home stretch.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Bit O' Bathroom Bling

Now that Blogger has decided to start working again (after not letting me post for a few days -- third or fourth time this has happened this year!), here's a post I wrote yesterday.

I know I've been very quiet but I've been incredibly busy. The bathroom is … not done. But the finish line is SO close, I can almost touch it!

We're down to some smaller details after a whirlwind of weekend activity. (Amazing how fast four days can go.) I also had a change of heart this morning. I have decided NOT to put the 1x6 ceramic tiles along the top of the shower wall. Instead, I'm going to go with a thin wood trim that I've already used elsewhere in the bathroom. (I haven't told the mother this yet but, other than the fact that it will have to be painted, I don’t think she's going to object. I may even try to sneak in the painting myself so she has absolutely nothing to complain about.)

I can't describe how exciting it has been to watch each little thing we've done FINALLY start to come together. It's hard to imagine that such a tiny room could be so much work, but it really has been. In fairness, we've been slowed by a combination of things over the past few days, too, including weather (much-needed rain which has severely aggravated my arthritic left wrist and hand), doing a host of small things in the kitchen which is the next target, and waiting for paint and/or caulk to dry. It also didn't help that I came home from work Thursday and began fixing the bathroom floor. This included replacing tile and then ripping out bad grout in certain areas. After a whirlwind shopping trip on Friday, I grouted those areas and then after leaving it exposed overnight, covered it with paper to protect it during Saturday's session with Lawrence.
One of the biggest accomplishments of Lawrence's was installing the new bathroom lights.

I'll leave you with a little preview that mixes his handiwork with that of mine and the mother's during this major transformation of a tiny little room. I'll apologize now for the somewhat poor quality. I was tired and having trouble with light and shadow.
Here you see the wallpaper, new switchplates (with handy dimmers installed) the new black chair rail against the freshly painted white beadboard.

Can anyone say BLING?! (The bling was installed by ME!) You also get to see the ceiling (NOT new) with the egg and dart moulding (NEW!) and the mother's handiwork with the decorative back she painted for the light. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

It’s amazing how accustomed you become to things when you live in a work in progress.

For instance, we stopped putting toilet paper on the holder not long after Toby arrived in 2006. (He liked to shred the rolls.) We eventually graduated to setting the roll on top of the holder as he grew and his interest in TP did not. In May 2009, when I began tearing wallpaper off the bathroom walls and prepping the ceiling for the original Michaelangelo project the holder came down all together so that the beadboard could be repainted.

The holder went back up yesterday. More than once, I found myself turning this way or that to find the TP – instead of looking on the wall directly in front of me. (The mother did it, too, and it was a great source of comedy throughout the day.) But the holder is back up. New switchplates and the new chair rail are also in place. A pimped out plain old cabinet (sans doors) is back up and the mirror that covers the in-the-wall medicine cabinet over the sink is up again, too.

Even so, I didn’t get as far as I’d liked over the weekend thanks to both the mother and Mother Nature. As she usually does when a project is edging closer to the finish, the mother found yet a new project to tack onto the to-do’s. After being devastated that a pretty new cabinet just would NOT fit behind the toilet on a wall that runs between the shower and the sink, she thought of a way to jazz up the existing cabinet. “Could we put some beadboard panels along the sides?” she asked me on Friday. (We means me, of course.) Fortunately, I had a piece of scrap birch beadboard to accommodate the request. On Saturday, I fought the wind (gusting to 30 mph) to cut those panels. The mother than wanted to put some of the thin wood egg and dart molding (purchased for the bathroom but now designated for other projects since we bought the matching molding for that ceiling) along the new beadboard edges.

Even if we could spare it, it’s too thick, I said. Then, I remembered the NEW thin wood strip – still unpainted – that I had bought for the bathroom. It’s one of two I’d bought. The other, already painted black, is going to help me cover some bare spots in the ceiling in front of the gingerbread fretwork. When I brought the piece up and laid it onto the side of the cabinet, the mother was sold. She promptly painted it black. So cutting, sanding and installing beadboard panels and cutting and installing trim on the medicine cabinet was the bulk of Saturday.

While I had the saw set up once again yesterday to cut the chair rail, I had planned to also cut the quarter-round. I would just wait to install it until I finished the floor. That was the plan. But while I was testing the chair rail and making some final cuts, the sky began to blacken. And the wind, which was already pretty powerful, began throwing things from my temporary work station. Rather than rush through a mitering job, I began cleaning and picking things up. Meanwhile, the stormy activity continued.

It would be almost three hours before it actually rained. I could have gotten my boards cut.

Oh well. I guess it just wasn't meant. But, with a little more patience and a bit of luck maybe, just maybe, this thing can get done this weekend. THAT would be spectacular!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wrappin' Up

This day began with a beautiful orange and pink sunrise and it's winding down with a similar sunset. (The sky is becoming more beautiful by the second as I type this.)

It also represents the wrap on what's been quite the week. That's a lot of why I've been so quiet. There's a lot going on both at home and away.

The bathroom is really coming along. It's pretty exciting to watch it taking shape, little by little. The mother has been working like a fiend on touching up this, touching up that and digging for all the stuff that will soon adorn its walls. This weekend, I hope to install the new chair rail, work on repairing the floor and possibly even put up the tile around the tub surround. Once the floor is done, I can put down quarter-round.

I'm also going to see if Lawrence can return next Friday, make an adjustment to the new light that is in there above the mirror over the sink and also install the new ceiling light.

Little by little. So as soon as we get closer to a wrap, I'll put up some pictures. Maybe, if we can get a little farther this weekend, I might share a preview.

It will be incredible to bring this project – that began more than three years ago – to an end. Then, of course, it will be on to the kitchen!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Leaps and Bounds

I am sleepy, in need of a shower and totally exhausted. My hands, feet and back ache to an indescribable degree; my legs are covered in ladder bruises. I am, however, very happy.

That's because we've made major headway on the bathroom. Finally! After almost three years in idle mode, work on the bathroom got kicked into high gear starting on Thursday. As soon as I got home from work that afternoon, I jumped right in – and I stayed in an almost perpetual state of motion FOR DAYS.

There is still plenty of work to call it "done," but both paint and wallpaper are on the walls and one of two new light fixtures is in place. The egg and dart molding is up (YAY!) finally giving the faux tin ceiling a finished look. Like I said though, still plenty to go so I don't want to share photos until it gets a little closer to the finish line.

Ideally, by this weekend it will be VERY close to done and finished shortly thereafter. The satisfaction of getting this far this fast after waiting so D*MNED LONG … there just aren't words.
But it's back to the grind tomorrow after a four-day "weekend" so here's hoping that the natural high continues. I'm sure that effort will be buoyed by the fact that tomorrow I'll be heading to a Cards' game with friends. Tres excited!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Slow Going

I finished painting the scrap wallboard and started cutting and installing it. That was "the idea" I've alluded to: cover the bathroom walls (that I so miserably failed to skimcoat) with scrap wallboard left from other projects.

Each wall has its own little oddities in making a decent cut.

I cut one piece backwards (way to go, idiot!) but even before doing that, it was obvious that I was going to be just a little bit shy on material. D*mn. Sucks that I'll need to buy a whole board when I really don't need that much. Luckily, it's not expensive (less than $12). It will just be a PITA to get home. And part of the beauty of using up my scrap was that well, I was using my scrap! As it is, I'll still have scrap, albeit in much smaller pieces.

I managed to get the first few strips up before dark Saturday. (I got a late start, thanks to a few sets of showers in the morning.) And Sunday? Well, it rained in the morning and looked liked it could most of the rest of the day.

By the time the sun popped out around 4, I passed on the chance to use up the few hours of daylight that were left. In other words, I was a slug on Sunday. But, I needed it. In fact, it was good that I'd gotten a few extra hours of sleep because early Monday morning, I got bounced out of bed by thunderstorms. Luckily, it was nothing severe.

So, I'll start slogging my way through the rest of the job a few hours at a time – until Friday – when I'm taking a vacation day. And then, on Saturday, Lawrence will be back on the scene. There's a lot to get done between now and then, so here's hoping.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Juggling Act

I’m at the point where there are just too many balls in the air.

Bathroom. Kitchen. Future plans. Work. Freelancing. Regular routine (laundry, shopping, paying bills, general house maintenance, car upkeep). And somewhere in there I need time to bathe, eat, sleep and maybe live for a few minutes.

And let’s not forget yard work. After begging off Saturday to work with Lawrence and then starting my own work on the bathroom – for which my idea WILL work, more on that later – and then spending Sunday fighting allergies and dealing with much of the above, mowing didn’t get done over the weekend. We’ve gotten a bit of rain in the past week and the weeds, which is the only thing that has thrived all summer, are taking over. And, it’s been about a month or so since I’ve even bothered to mow.

So I spent four plus hours yesterday paying for that. It was nice to walk outside this morning and see a neatly trimmed, albeit dead, lawn. Miraculously, though admittedly a bit achy, I am not in agony. I haven’t checked my biorhythm, but I’d be willing to bet I’m on a higher energy cycle. (I haven’t collapsed like a house of cards, so that’s my first clue.) I’m extremely grateful for this because otherwise I’d probably be in a heap somewhere! (Not a complaint; merely an observation.)

I’m luckier than most in that I am absolved from the bulk of housekeeping (outside laundry and trash). The mother takes care of that and she also takes care of Toby about 90 percent of the time. Even so, I still feel like I’m stuck in a giant taffy pull most days – and I’m the taffy! The silver lining is that it’s made getting a dog a lesser priority for now. Way too much chaos, especially for a creature that has probably been abused or neglected, to endure! I'm anxious though to get things calm enough to actively pursue a new furbaby.

To save my own sanity, I spent a little time on Sunday creating some greeting cards (an off-shoot of my scrapbooking hobby) and planning a few more with some birthdays coming. And later today, I’m taking the mother shopping. She hasn’t felt that great the past few weeks and so I’m taking her desire to actually go somewhere as a good sign.

Here’s hoping that the balls can stay in the air on their own for an afternoon.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Lawrence List

Lawrence will be here a little later today! I honestly don't remember the last project we did so it will be nice to have him back on board.

The forecast calls for a chance of storms but ideally, those will hold off until later in the evening by which time we'll be long done. I'm still trying to fine tune the to-do's for the day.

If it's not raining – and before it gets blistering hot – I want him to fix one of the scallops on the front of the house. (He put them up there; he can fix it.)

I'm going to have him take down the light fixture above the bathroom sink. And the mother wants him to put some dimmer switches in.

And I'm going to have him confirm if my wallboard idea, to get me out of skimcoating the POS walls in the bathroom again, is the epiphany I thought it was.

I also need him to confirm if the bit o' bling light fixture that the mother bought to put over the sink is going to fit once we put the egg and dart trim up. If it even fits, it's going to be tight.

I want him to put the cover back over the exhaust fan in the bathroom. I took it down to clean it and because the little plastic grooves that hold the flex pins in place are broken, I can't get it to go back up. I think a few screws will get it fastened.

Other stuff, I just need to pick his brain about. It should be a productive day.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Sun, The Moon and All

Thursday was frustrating.

On again, off again assignments and work projects. (One of which annoyed the hell out of me but then was mercifully postponed.) A small assortment of technology-related issues. Timing that was literally shot to hell.

At home, the freelance work continued the trend. I spent more time looking for things to write than writing them. And for the living part of home, the to-dos are just overwhelming. Lack of sleep and my mounting frustration level finally took a toll: I fell asleep and managed about a 90-minute nap.

While I was asleep, something amazing happened. IT RAINED! Before I fell asleep, the occasional rain drop would grace my window. The sky promised so much more with its multiple shades of gray and yet all we could muster was a spritz. Seriously? And then I fell asleep.

I peered out the window at around 7:45 p.m. and the sky had a green overcast. Yikes! But when I walked in the kitchen and looked out that window, I was greeted by this.

This photo doesn't begin to do it justice and I couldn't really capture a nicely framed shot without being inundated by power lines. I think you see enough though to get the idea that it was a pretty spectacular sunset.

Everything was WET! It must have been a really steady rain -- and I slept right through it. I was amazed to see just how drenched everything was. It was even sprinkling a bit when I shot this. No watering of shrubs required. Color me grateful!

Once the night had officially claimed the sky, I got another surprise: the full moon. Because we actually HAD gotten rain, I thought that cloud cover would likely win out and there would be absolutely no way that the moon would be visible. I walked outside to have a look.
SURPRISE! Look who was about to join the party!

I quickly ran back in to get the camera.

I spent the next 20 minutes outside exercising the index finger on the dial to adjust aperture, speed and focus. I would later learn that during this same time, I also was serving as a mosquito smorgasbord. Those d*mned little buggers! The rain and the cooled air brought them back out of hiding.

Again, this image doesn't quite capture the image I was treated to but you get the idea. If only I could learn to get the camera to accurately depict what my eyes see!

During the time that I basked in the moonlight (and served as a mobile blood bank for the mosquito population) the moon shed its inhibitions and came from behind the tree. That allowed me to capture this.

The evening's visuals, coupled with the much needed rainful, were a nice ending to what was a less than nice day. We truly can find good in almost every day if we choose to look.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Letting Go

I never did hear anything from the people who have/had Wego. Why would you post something to find a home for an animal and then never bother to respond to someone?

It's cruel. It's rude. But that's the way it is. Let's just say the next time I see something with that group's name, I'll likely ignore it.

I'm sure it won't be the last time I'm disappointed in the search for a furbaby. The truth of the matter is that I probably am not ready for a dog this second anyway. The mother has been sick and the house is chaotic with all the things that need to be done. The bottom line: I've got time. If it happens this year, great. If not, that's OK, too.

The most important thing though is that my heart is completely open to the idea. And the truth there is I don't think that it has been. Every time I look at this blog, there is Ozzie in the right-hand sidebar. If you weren't a regular reader of the blog or someone who knows me outside of it, you'd never have imagined that Ozzie wasn't alive. In all these months, I've never changed it. I did for Tigger when we lost him a few years ago. But for Oz, I did not.

I changed that last night. It was painful. It was difficult. But, it was right. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Repeat Wasn’t on the List

Yesterday, after working at the office for five hours and then for about three hours from home freelancing, I added a DIY tour of duty to the mix.

It wasn’t the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had. However, after looking at my multipage to-do list, it’s necessary. (At least it is if I hope to finish the kitchen and bathroom sometime before I am too old to walk through either of them.) So as soon as I wrapped up the last of yesterday’s work that I get paid for, I hopped on the slave labor bandwagon.

A while back, I had skimcoated the bathroom walls. Last night, I sanded them. If you’ve never sanded drywall before, lucky you. If you have, you know what a pain it is and how the subsequent clean-up is even worse! (By the time I was done, I looked like I was auditioning to be Caspar or else had been dumped into a vat of flour. And the bathroom itself didn’t look any better despite my best efforts to tape up plastic to minimize the dust. In fact, I think it took longer to clean it all up than it did to sand.)

In the light of day, I am acknowledging two things.

1. Our bathroom walls are horrible. (What they really need is to just be knocked down. That, however, isn’t happening.) I knew that when I started this little adventure. I thought I could make it work by skimcoating. I no longer believe this is a viable option.

2. I SUCK at skimcoating. Seriously. This is not a job I am just BAD or INEPT at. The good news is that I found that I am not alone and that it’s possible I can learn to be better at it. (Thank you, Sarah, at The Ugly Duckling House, a blog I was lucky enough to stumble across while seeking advice, if not the “miserable company” that misery loves.)

I do NOT, however, wish to do the whole skimcoating ordeal again. A repeat of that job just wasn’t on my list. And, as the day has worn on, I had an epiphany, or at least what I hope is one. If the solution works, it will not only resolve the bathroom wall situation, but also mean

* I don’t have to paint the bathroom walls themselves.

* I don’t have to redo the entire skimcoating – just a little bit here and there.

* I don’t have to buy drywall and worry about the walls shouldering that extra weight.

*I don’t have to buy anything as I can potentially use some materials that are just sitting around and for which I don’t have any plans. (And I’d get my full money’s worth from them!)

Wish me luck. If this works, it would be terrific! It also would be one of the only things to go right at This D*mn House in a while. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scrapbooking Meets DIY

One of the things I probably like the most about scrapbooking -- outside the photos themselves -- are the tools.

I have a Slice, which is like a small but less frilly Cricut, except this die-cutter is rechargeable and can be used cordless. I have a myriad of cutters, clippers, setters and adhesive machines.While scrapbooking and DIY clearly have this in common, it's not often that the two worlds collide, at least not for me.

But on Sunday, they did.

I have a variety of cordless Black & Decker tools, several from their Firestorm line. On Sunday, I was using my sander from that collection. LOVE the sander. It uses the sanding pads that you velcro to the sanding base. See the velcro? Do you also see the little orange triangle at the top? It's special in that the pads come with extra diamond-shape pieces so you can switch JUST that piece out to do edging or other precision sanding. I use that a lot.

Which is probably why the adhesive holding that little piece of Velcro in place finally gave way. I tried another option, which worked in the short-term, before falling off yet again.

For a while, I couldn't figure out what to do and then it hit me: the Xyron. Of course!

Some years back, when I was traveling back and forth to Rochester, a client turned friend was having problems getting her parking card to stick to her windshield. (It had a similar Velcro attachment.) I took my small Xyron in my carry-on luggage and fixed it while I was in town. A few years ago, she mailed me the piece again and I repaired it and mailed it back.

Because it was handier, I grabbed my medium-sized Xyron. It works on items up to 2.5-inches wide. The smaller one is up to an inch. I think the biggest of the three I own is up to 5 or 6 inches. Collectivelly, these are some great tools and I use them a lot.

It didn't hold the first time. The second time, after I cleaned both the sander AND the Velcro piece and then wiped both with a touch of rubbing alcohol and allowed them to dry, it stuck! Didn't have any trouble with it for the rest of the afternoon.

It's great to know that I can mix my mediums. It's like getting twice the benefit of my tools!

Monday, July 30, 2012

At Last: R-A-I-N!

We got teased with raindrops a few weeks ago but other than that, we hadn't had rain since I can't remember when.

I was sound asleep yesterday morning when I heard the mother’s voice: “It’s raining.”

I wasn’t awake but I wasn’t so out of it that the idea of rain, something we’ve seen almost none of in the past three months, did not escape me. “Really?” I asked, half doubting her even as I sat up to peer outside. I pulled the shade back, flipped the shutter and behold, there WAS rain! Wow. It wasn’t a downpour by any stretch but it was a steady rain, strong enough that puddles were forming on the deck and in the driveway.

It would figure that it would finally rain when I had planned to be outside sanding between 8 and 8:30! (I had managed to get the large cabinet down in the bathroom and I also had a half-sheet of beadboard to tackle.) Instead of thinking of something else to do, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

When I got up around 9:30 it was still raining though it looked like it was slacking a bit. The sky even had a small visible patch of blue. I thought that by the time I got dressed and had a little breakfast that I would be ready to go. But no, still raining. It would rain for almost another two hours!

Great. Now it will be muggy and horrible out, I thought as the sun blazed through the clouds. Except, it wasn’t. Instead, after setting up shop under the tree that separates our half of the vacant lot from the neighbor’s, a steady breeze kicked in. It was PLEASANT! What a welcome and wonderful change from sweating your guts out as soon as you walk outside.

I managed to make it through sanding the cabinet, both its doors and two shelves. The beadboard will have to wait. (Not a big deal. I figure I can sand and then cut it at the same time.) I also carried a bunch of stuff out of the basement, located several projects pieces I was looking for and then found and carried up paint we’d need for the bathroom.

I was pretty much on the move from 11 until after 8 last night, taking just a few short breaks in between. While I was exhausted when I finally fell into bed last night, at least it was from the effort of actually DOING things and not almost entirely from trying to DO things while being baked alive.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Night Scene

For weeks now, almost without exception, I go out and water the shrubs at or just after sundown.

And it's been SO miserably hot that even at night, even without the sun, it is still oppressive. It's like the air just stops and your oxygen level goes with it. Absolutely stifling. But last night, it wasn't that way at all.

While it was very hot again yesterday, at dusk it was comfortable. ("Pleasant" would be too strong a word, though I'll admit that when the occasional breeze kicked up, pleasant might apply.) Even as I tugged at the hose, something that is not that dissimilar from trying to unwrap a firehose, the air didn't immediately rush from my lungs the way it usually does.

As I began to water the shrubs, the moon became perfectly aligned with the plastic pan of water I leave out for the creatures. For the next few minutes, I watched the half-moon glimmer and dance in the water. Then, as it rose in the night sky, the moonlight caught the gutters along the house giving them an eerie shimmer.

When hit with the hose, the resulting droplets completely lit up as they connected, bursting against it and then flying away into the darkness of night. It was quite the night scene and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's one I hope to enjoy a bit more this summer.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The TV Saga: The Final Chapter

You may recall that, back in March, I had quite a saga in purchasing a new TV for the livingroom.

I was finally successful after finding the same TV (for less money) at Wal-Mart and also adding HD to our cable service. You may also recall that I tried previously to move the old TV a few months ago to get it out of the house but had to give up before I dropped it on my fool feet.

And so, it sat on a small canvas throw in the dining room floor for four months. It was getting to where looking at it made me angry. I wanted it gone – and yet I felt powerless to achieve that.

That ended today.

I noticed that it was electronic item collection day in a neighboring community – where I was planning to do some hardware store shopping anyway. That sealed the deal. That TV was going OUT OF THIS HOUSE and INTO THE CAR. I didn't care what it took. It was happening. I reminded myself of what I had been able to accomplish on a similarly hot summer day four years ago: destroying the old concrete walkway with a 14-pound sledge hammer. I had been encouraged by the fact that someone had quoted me $600 to do the job. (That alone was more than half of the budget for the whole walkway/porch bricking project!)

I was able to drag the TV on the canvas across the dining room and then into the kitchen. From there, things got dodgy. The door from the kitchen to the basement and the backdoor which opens into the landing cannot be opened completely at the same time without some careful maneuvering. And while the TV wasn't incredibly heavy (maybe 40 pounds) the weight was situated all in the middle. And you can't reach the middle (or at least I couldn't) because of the bulky, lightweight protruding back of the set. Total nightmare.

I managed to wrestle it through one doorway and then the other and carefully navigate it onto the deck. From there, my plan was to load the TV into Pearl's trunk. I drove Pearl out of the carport and forward as far as I could without hitting the shed, meaning she was parallel to the deck. I threw open the trunk and then began my challenge.

Getting the TV from the deck to the car wasn't hard. Hefting the TV into the trunk was a little more challenging. Then, trying to maneuver the TV into the trunk (so that it could be closed) was an exercise in futility. Pearl's trunk just wasn't large enough. (The T-bird might have been another story.) After several minutes of trying, I opted for the backseat instead.

By this time, it was about 98 degrees outside so I went in to cool off for a bit before shifting my attention to the backseat.

That proved to be an equally tight process because the open backdoor leaves no room for wrangling.

Thank God I had put blankets and the canvas down first. And finally, success! I used the seatbelt to secure the TV in place and off I went.

Finally! SO very glad to have that thing out of here.
It's a good feeling to accomplish something you don't even think you can do.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Planning … Again

Yesterday, I made a list with several separate subsets of “to-dos.”

On one side of the page, I separately listed all of the things I still need to do in the bathroom and kitchen. *Sigh* That is one hell of a list! Daunting, to say the least.

On the other side, I listed all of the things I need to do related to these projects, like measure for and order the special order tile to put along the top of the shower surround. That list is shorter and more manageable. I figure that as I am able to cross those things off the list at least the page will bear SOME evidence of progress!

And, on the adjacent page, I have listed all the things I need to have Lawrence do or that I need to discuss with him. Yes, Lawrence – THAT Lawrence! He called me out of the blue on Friday afternoon. (He must be psychic as his name has come up a lot lately.) I’m trying to work out some days next month for him to reappear on the scene. But first, I have work I need to complete so that he can do the things I’ve listed for him. That's kind of a tall order.

I hope that I will be able to take care of some of that later this week. I’m planning to take a few days of vacation (I DO still get vacation time) from the WEEKS I have stockpiled for the year. If the weather cooperates, as well as my stamina, I should be able to get ‘er done. Or, at least enough of it to get Lawrence back on the job.

Here’s hoping.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Birthday

Sunday was my birthday.

Birthdays were like a national holiday when I was younger but not so for quite some time. I even went through a phase where I dreaded them. (Turning 40 ended that.) So, I wasn't sure what kind of day it was going to be but it turned out to be one of the best I've had in a while.

The mother hasn't been well lately and she didn't feel like doing anything. That actually ended up not being a bad thing. Pearl and I went on an adventure.

Poor Pearl. She was FILTHY (and I get unnerved when she's dirty) so I wasn't going anywhere without getting her cleaned. As luck would have it, I had tucked away a free coupon for a deluxe car wash at a place along the way. Wahoo!

The mother wanted me to look for a gift item at Cracker Barrel so I stopped there next. Then, it was on to Archiver's and from there to Harbor Freight. I got some new sawhorses and a few other unanticipated bargains. Score!

I even stopped at ANOTHER scrapbook store and did a buzz through Tuesday Morning's scrapbook offerings before heading to get some food. I was hungry and it was getting a bit hot out so I turned Pearl homeward.

MMMMmmmm good. I passed on getting either a cake or a pie but as the afternoon wore on, I was overcome by a chocolate attack. Shortly before sunset, I decided a blizzard would fill that void quite nicely. Apparently, everyone else in town thought it would be a good idea, too, as both the store itself and the drive-thru were jammed. Sigh. Don't these people know it's my birthday?!

As it turned out, the wait in line was a blessing in disguise. Had I been able to zip in and out of DQ, I'd have been quickly back home and inside, consuming my blizzard ... and I would have completely missed the gorgeous sunset going on outside. What a bonus gift!

All in all, it was a really good day, something I haven't had in a while and for which I was exceptionally grateful. I know I haven't always been as grateful as perhaps I should be. Days like yesterday make it a whole lot easier to be grateful for.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Writer, baker, cabinet maker

I've been trying to get organized and get working on the kitchen and bathroom again.

Yesterday, I managed to make a little progress with kitchen stuff. See for yourself. Here's one of our current drawer fronts in the kitchen. It's the only one that still has the old handles on it. Currently, none of the other drawers or any of the cabinets have any handles on them.

When I took them off, I thought I would be replacing them a heck of a lot sooner. But, as time has worn on, we've adapted to it. Earlier this week, I managed to locate the pieces for what will become our new drawer fronts. I spent a good chunk of Saturday assembling and sanding them.
They still need some paint, but you get the idea. I even tacked on one of the new handles so I could see what it's going to look like. The photo doesn't show it very well, but the handles are a nice, shiny nickel finish.

The fun part is that I still haven't completely figured out HOW I'm going to get them installed. (Except for the two fake ones in front of the sink. I'll just pop those two out. No problem.)

I think they look pretty good. Seeing these might be just the inspiration I need to get things moving again.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Here Wego

It's been almost nine months since we lost Ozzie.

I still miss him terribly. (I have a horrible feeling that I always will.) And in the past several weeks, I think I have felt that emptiness just as much as I did during that first month or so where I was still expecting to see him in the morning and laying a certain way so as not to kick him! 

A couple of times recently, the mother has asked me if I wanted to get another dog and I've said no. And then the other night, at the conclusion of an episode of "Property Brothers," the twins brought their client family a dog … a little Yorkie. It was more than my heart could stand. And I lost it.

The poor mother. I know she felt bad herself and then more so for me. "Isn't there a Yorkie rescue?" she asked. "There are lots of babies out there that need a home."

So I did something I hadn't in a while: I did a local shelter search (less than 50 miles) and about five Yorkie/Yorkie mixes came up! I hate to discriminate, but I immediately discounted the senior dogs. I don't think I could stand to get attached only to go through last year all over again in the not so distant future.
There were two real contenders though! I read a description of one (whom I might even see tomorrow at a local adoption event). His picture caught my eye first.  It was the description though of the second Yorkie who melted my heart:

Wego is a little dog with big personality! He loves to be with his foster Mommy, even sleeps in bed with her. He gets along nicely with the dogs of all sizes in his foster home. Wego loves the kids and will play with them for hours.
This little guy will cuddle up on the couch to watch TV, his favorite shows are always on Animal Planet. But he is ready to go outside and run or do yardwork. Wego is very well mannered and knows how to sit and lay down. His favorite snack on a hot day is doggy ice cream!
Do you have room for Wego on your couch?

Why, yes. I think I do.

When I read the description to the mother she immediately said, "You're going to contact them, aren't you?" I fired off an email late last night. I want to meet Wego! (I even love the name, stolen from a Budweiser commercial!)

It may not work out; he may already be adopted or in the process of or maybe we wouldn't click. But I'll never know that if I don't try. So, we'll see what happens. It's an important first step.

I'll take it as a good sign that it was exactly three years ago that I rescued a tiny kitten, if you believe in the power of karma.

Now maybe a little dog can rescue me.     

The Year of Living Dangerously

It was exactly one year ago tonight that my life began its most recent downward spiral. 

That's the night we took Ozzie to the vet and got the news that to this day is among the worst I've ever heard: lymphoma. (Three months later, he was gone.) A week later, I was haggling with the car repair people to get Pearl in for her post-hail repair and a week after that, I was haggling to get her back.
 And then, a few days after I got Pearl back, I found out I was losing my job … or half of it anyway, along with a significant chunk of my salary.

My car. My dog. My job. Except for family and friends, everything near and dear to me was under attack and so was I, if by proxy. For months, I was almost afraid to wake up, sure that yet another siege was just around the corner.

Instead, except for the occasional plunge to the depths, things seem to have reached some kind of plateau during the past several months. And while that's not a bad thing, it's not necessarily a good thing either. It's definitely better. It just seems like it should be better than that, if that makes sense.

It's not that I'm not grateful; I am. I know how much worse it all could have been. Still though I can't help but hope that it won't be much longer before I've crawled farther away from the abyss and am scaling the mountaintop.

There's always next year, right?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dreamin' … DIY Style

When I woke up yesterday morning, I had an idea stuck in my head. I don't know if I dreamed it, saw it somewhere and my subconscious shook it loose overnight, or if I had a genuine original thought in my first waking moments.

In any case, I had an idea for a project before my eyes were even completely open. That just doesn’t happen. Especially that I SAW what it should look like, at least roughly. That's something the mother does – not me.

When I got off work, I went to Home Depot and I found the stuff to make it happen: 3x6 braid rope tiles. Correction – I found one version of the stuff to make it happen. I came home with the "in stock" white trim tiles to see if they would work, knowing that if they do, I will have to buy the black "special order" ones. The black special order ones that are almost TWICE the cost of the white in stock ones ... it never fails.

I think they will be a really cool accent to the black ceiling, black and white newsprint wallpaper, white beadboard and black and white hex floor. I guess it's a good thing that it's a small bathroom so I guess it will be worth the price.

Now, I have to find a corbel or some kind of corner piece for the tiles to butt up against in the two corners inside the shower surround. (For some reason, those corners aren't flush with the wall.) The good news is that there are such things available in vinyl/plastic/PVC.

Always something, isn't it?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


We’re riding yet another heat wave in St. Louis. (Well, it is July so I guess that comes with the territory.)

On Tuesday, I managed to get out of the office almost on time! It was blasted hot (set a record with 103 degrees) and all I wanted to do was get home. I hustled to the train – which also was on time – and scrambled aboard. Ah! Even IF I called home and discovered I needed to make a stop, I should be home by 1:15 at the latest. Yeah!

Except that when I got off the train and arrived at Pearl, I was greeted by a FLAT rear tire, a screw head protruding just above the surface. Sh*t! And when I opened the trunk and pulled out the donut, my spirits were quickly more deflated than the tire on the car: it was too low to get me home. (VERY NASTY expletives) So, even if I changed the tire, I was going nowhere.

OnStar to the rescue! Especially since it was 103 outside. (Pearl told me it was 105.) In any case, BOILING HOT! I was immediately relieved that the two six-packs of paper towels I’d bought over the weekend had not made it into the house. I cracked one open and began blotting myself as I waited for the operator.

Within minutes, OnStar handed me off to Cadillac Roadside Assistance. From there, I was told the name of the company that was responding and to expect a text or an automated call letting me know an ETA. My cell rang 20 minutes later. No automation, but another OnStar operator checking on my status. When I said I’d not heard from the responder, he put me on hold and called them. ETA is 18 minutes or less. By this time, I’m completely drenched, to the point of dripping. Five minutes later: “Hi. This is George from X. I’ll be with you in 20 minutes.” Five minutes after that: “This is George from X again. I can’t get across the bridge. My super has called another tech who is already on your side of the bridge. I don’t want you to have to wait any longer. His name is Jamal. He’ll be calling you.” By this time, I’d been waiting 45-50 minutes already. I was roasting.

I started Pearl and cranked the A/C. The cavalry is coming, so hang on! Twenty minutes later: “This is Jamal. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” Seriously? I would have thought he’d BE there by now! A minute later, another OnStar operator called. She was dismayed that no one was there. “Believe me, if he’s not here within those 20 minutes, I’ll call YOU back,” I said.

At 1:55, almost 90 minutes after it began, the ordeal was over. Almost. Donut on, but Jamal has no air tank. WTF? This IS WHY I CALLED FOR HELP! “You can’t drive on that,” he says. Thank you, Captain Obvious! Um, yeah. I kinda knew that. “So, what? I wish myself home?”

The final solution: I limped her along several blocks to a gas station with an air machine. From there, the tire store! (We’ve done business with these people for as long as I can remember.)So, less than three hours after the ordeal began, Pearl was safe in the driveway with her tire repaired, the donut stowed. I had showered, put on cool, dry, clothes and gulped down two bottles of ice cold water.

In the end, I’m glad it wasn’t the following day. We hit a record 106 yesterday and today is more of the same.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday ToolTalk: Frogg Toggs' Chilly Pad Towel

We just came off a 10-day streak of 100+ high temperatures. And it's only July. So, while it's not a tool per se, it's something that has already come in handy while I use a variety of tools at This D*mn House.

It's the Chilly Pad Cooling Towel from Frogg Toggs. And I can honestly say it's one of the best inventions of the 21st century. No. Really. IT IS.

It was a serendipitous discovery while standing in line in the paint department at Home Depot during a recent Behr sale. It was a bit warm in the store so the display with this blue rag that, from a distance, didn't look that different from a Handi-Wipe, caught my eye. Touch it though and it was a piece of heaven! Cool. Damp. But not dripping. Even the mother was amazed and she's not easily impressed. "You need one of these," she said. I heartily agreed.

So far, I've kept mine around my neck on a few 95+ and on one 100+ day. (I didn't get to use it during my concrete work though. I was afraid the dusty mix would stick to it and ruin it.)

I'll defer to the manufacturer for a description of this 33" x 13" beauty:
Made from a hyper-evaporative material that retains water while remaining dry to the touch, The Chilly Pad® is an innovative way to cool down while enduring outdoor heat and/or high levels of physical activity. When wet, the towel begins to evaporate and cool, providing cool, soft comfort to the user. When it stops cooling, simply re-wet the towel in hot or cold water and wring it out. Within minutes, it’s cool again.

Pros: It's a great size, easy to use and really helps cool you down. It's machine washable and you can store it in the plastic tube it comes in. (If it dries a little too stiff, just soak it in water for a few minutes and you're back in business.) It's easy to toss in a gym bag, luggage or with camping gear.
Cons: When the heatwave was at its height and the A/C didn't quite cut it, I neglected to put it on my pillow. Should have done that! The biggest con right now? Good luck finding one. But, by planting this seed in your mind, if and when you see one, you'll probably want to buy it.
Conclusion: It's soft. It's cool. It's a great size to drape around your neck and dab your face. It was $12.99 at Home Depot. It was 13 of the best dollars I've ever spent.
Availability: In addition to Home Depot, you'll likely find them at Cabela's and other sporting goods stores which carry the Frogg Toggs line.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Empathy for the Vampire

When I was a kid, I’d get up late at night when I couldn’t sleep and turn on the TV. A lot of times, it was a test pattern, because programming had long since ended for the day.

Occasionally though, I’d luck out and find some old movie if I was patient enough to flip through all of the 10 or so channels we had back then. More often than not, I would find one of the 1960s “Dracula” movies with Christopher Lee. Seeing them many years later, I couldn’t help but laugh. But watching them as a 4-, 5- or 6- year-old, I was wide-eyed and thrilled.

The most enduring scenes for me are the ones where Dracula would inevitably try to outrun the impending sunrise. For the last two weekends, I’ve developed an empathy for the vampire. While the first beams of light weren’t likely to blow holes through me or cause me to burst into flame as it would the iconic character, there were times, especially on Saturday, where it felt like it would!

I dutifully rose at 5:30 and was outside 15 minutes later, just like I had the week before to work on the bricks out back. Out there, I had a few hours, maybe as many as three, before I was working in full-on sun. Out front, I had less than half that time. And, on this Saturday, the temperature was rising even faster than a week before.

The walkway I’d made four years ago, needed a little more TLC than I anticipated. While I expected to be finished by no later than noon, when noon arrived, I hadn’t even finished clearing and cleaning the walkway yet. With the temperature a balmy 99, I had to quit. I was red as a strawberry, completely drenched and a bit shaky. I thought if I could wait until the shade came out onto the walkway, conditions might improve enough that I could finish.

They did. But only marginally. By then, it was 107 degrees (the day’s high and the fifth or six record temp in a row during a 10-day stint of triple-digit heat). The walkway was still mostly in sun, but I persisted. Carrying 50- and 60-pound bags of concrete was pure hell. I took brief breaks, killed several bottles of water and retreated to the house for an out-and-out cool down once. By 7 p.m., I was cleaning up and getting ready to call it a day. All totaled, I'd spent between 8.5 and 9 hours out in the heat.

As a result, Sunday was a very lazy day. I felt like the vampire had gotten me -- and siphoned every bit of life from me.

This morning, it’s back to the grind. I’m tired and still a bit sore but the weather is a welcome change. It’s a bit muggy but not the balmy 80 it’s been the past few mornings at dawn. There's a light breeze and an undertone of coolness, courtesy of the front that's to give us highs in the 80s all week. And, it’s only supposed to hit 90 degrees today. Yes, that’ still warm, but it’s been hotter than that at 10 most nights for the last two weeks. So extreme heat, I bid you adieu.

Like Dracula, go away for another 80 years or so.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Breaking the Routine

For some reason, one morning last week I decided to break with my morning ritual and jump off the Metro train at the Arch/Laclede’s Landing stop instead of riding through to the heart of downtown.

I’m glad I did. Glad because the walk in is SO much better aesthetically, if not from a cardiovascular perspective. (UP THE HILL from the Landing to the Arch grounds and then a few more blocks into Downtown proper.) I enjoyed the change so much, in fact, that I opted to do it again this morning.

When I walk in from the Convention Center stop, all I see is modern architecture and parking garages with the exception of the Railway Exchange, one view of the Federal Reserve, the deteriorating and all-it-historical-beauty-covered-up-by an-ugly-1950s-fa├žade Mercantile Library, and the Marquette Building. And, the ever-depressing sight of the homeless who sleep along the block of Locust Street that stands along the way.

From the Landing, you get immediate gratification before you even leave the platform. (The platform is within the Eads Bridge expansion.) Through the mid-section archways of the bridge, you get a nice view of the Mississippi AND of the Arch itself. That view is even more enhanced once you go down the stairs and hit street level.

From the cobblestone street, you ascend the hill that borders the Arch grounds. Up, up, and up. As you ascend, Washington Avenue comes into view and the historic Missouri Athletic Club on one side and the Kennard Carpet building on the other. (You can see both buildings in this post. Or, more of just the MAC here.) Then, you take your chances crossing Third Street/Memorial Drive to get to Washington.

Turn on Washington and you’ll note that the carpet building (most recently the Roberts Vista) has now been converted to lofts. A gorgeous wood door entry is now on the Fourth Street side. (More on this building later.) Then, it’s a great view of the Federal Reserve and its plaza area. Up next, the Security Building. And while I’ve walked past it dozens of times, looking at it in the early morning light, I noticed things I hadn’t before. (More to come on this building, too.) Then, I get to zip past the Merchant’s Laclede (one of the oldest buildings downtown) and get a different angle on the Marquette.

And this morning, in addition to all of the different and alternative views, I got to pet a dog and give directions to a tourist.

It really puts a positive start on the day. Amazing what even a small change can do sometimes.

The Work Around

Because I am out the door ahead of the sun most weekdays, I love to sleep in on the weekends.

But to get something done this weekend, Mother Nature put the kibosh on that with our continuing heatwave. On Sunday, I was up before 5:30 a.m. and outside working before 6. I decided to repair my brick edging around the shed. It's been ailing for a while now. While the lower level facing the alley and the double lower level facing the yard were still rock solid, the upper layers of both left something to be desired.

The first hour or so was pretty pleasant. I was still in complete shade and it was right at about 80 degrees. By 8:30, I was working in full-on sun (not so pleasant) and by 9 a.m., the temp was really starting to rise. By 10, I know it had to be in the 90s. The rising temp and the sun beating down on me made that last hour pretty oppressive.

I took two short breaks and managed to be wrapped up by 11 a.m. including the time it took to clean everything up and put it away AND unload the extra concrete I bought to repair the walkway and porch out front. (Can you believe it's been FOUR YEARS since I put that in place? And, outside a few minor touches about two years ago, I've done nothing to it. Some weeds came through though and just general wear and tear are starting to show in a few spots.)

Right now, my plan for Wednesday is to repair the porch and walkway, repair the fence (which has some nice holes in it, courtesy of all the hail from both last year and this spring) and replant some trees -- little fake pines we've got all around the house, the shed and the deck -- that were uprooted during a storm several weeks ago. (I have 3 of 10 left to do.) And, since it is supposed to be 102 degrees on Wednesday, just like it was on Sunday, I guess I'll be up bright an early again.

Fun times.