Monday, December 31, 2007

Please help me justify my rationalization

This little cheapo thingy that was put (not by me) onto our bottom-of-the-line kitchen faucet to allow you to direct the water and also (supposedly) to select between a stream and a wider spray of water has just broken off.

I think this completely justifies my buying the nice gooseneck faucet that we need I want. Yes, I know we could replace that doohickey or just put the regular screen thingy back onto it (which we still have... somewhere; and yes there are technical names for these things but I'm far too undercaffeinated to imagine what they might be) but since clearly SOMEthing needs to be done, why shouldn't that something be that we put in a nice new faucet, yes?

If you agree, please let me know. And please share your own really stretched rationalization stories, like "the toilet paper holder broke off and so we completely remodeled the bathroom." That sort of thing. I need backup here, folks.

Maybe, in the spirit of "it's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission," I could just pick it up on my way into town to pick up the sushi and wine for tonight's dinner...

Friday, December 28, 2007

A rant about something not house related

(Does something count as house-related if it's preventing you from doing work on your house?)

Microsoft Office 2007 SUCKS.

Let me explain why I am qualified to make that assessment.
  • My first five years of computing (in college) was on punched cards.
  • I wrote 30+ page research papers in college using a basic electric typewriter.
  • My first word processing was on a dedicated word processor that used 8" floppy disks.
  • I've written hundreds of pages of software documentation using Emacs in place of a word processor.
  • My first PC-based word processing program was FinalWord. It was DOS-based, and fit on a single 512k floppy disk.
  • I then progressed to WordPerfect (again, on DOS), then WordPerfect in Windows (I'm talking the first Windows, Windows 3 era).
  • Gradually, as Microsoft took over the world, I had no choice but to move to the Microsoft Office Suite and Word. I went through every Windows-based version provided, starting with the version for Windows 3.x and up through Word 2003, all without a hitch.
  • I have taught advanced classes and provided many hours of help-desk support for every single one of these PC-based word processors; my full-time job since 1984 has been to teach and support PC and network operating systems and applications.
Now I'm trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing in Word 2007, and there's just no question that it sucks beyond all language that I could justify using on my house blog.

Tasks that I could have told you how to do from memory, without a PC in front of me, are now hidden, moved to some place that is completely inconsistent with decades of prior word processing usage and totally counter-intuitive.

Features that have been no-brainers for decades are relocated or missing, from both the menus -- Oh! Wait! No! there AREN'T any menus!! -- and from the Help system. Features that used to take a simply right-mouseclick or keyboard shortcut now require five minutes to locate... is it on this tab? This one? Maybe if I clicked here...


The first person who can tell me why something as basic as a checkbox isn't working (the checkboxes which took me forever to figure out how to get into the document in the first place, because Oh!! The tab that has those commands on it isn't SHOWN by default! You have to go here then there then this other place to SAY that you want to see that tab in order to get those commands) will get a very special prize: A long, thick-handled stripped screwdriver with a dog-gnawed handle, indicative of exactly what I feel that Microsoft has done to the world by releasing this monstrosity. "Threads" my big fat behind; the only "threads" are on the screw that MS has decided to shove up our collective butts with this disaster -- a disaster that we will have no choice but to accept.

Resistance is futile.

What really scares me is that I've only really started looking at Word, but I don't TEACH Word this upcoming semester: I teach Excel and Access.

God help me when we have to start teaching Vista. The only thing that will keep my head from exploding at that point will be my Linux classes.


2008 To-Do List

I can't call this a list of "resolutions" but I can call it a to-do list. Failure to accomplish a resolution comes across to me as exactly that: Failure. But a to-do list is a more fluid thing. A to-do list has plenty of wiggle room for changes in plans, life getting in the way, getting sidetracked by a project that suddenly just seems a lot more exciting than the other projects you had planned, unexpected illness, grandchildren, heat waves, cold snaps, or roof cave-ins. Well, hopefully not that last one but you know what I man.

That rationalization out of the way, I will create my overall to-do list for 2008:

Greening it up:
  • Build compost bin and find container to keep inside for compostable materials
  • Start recycling office papers
  • Increase commitment to locavorism: Join CSA, plant veggies to freeze, buy at least 50% local meat, eggs, dairy.
  • Insulate the attic room on the 3rd floor.
  • Finish making and installing the rainbarrels (requires installing gutters on garden shed and far side of garage)

Getting Organized:

  • Get the #!%^@ garage organized (a project that's been ongoing since I've moved here)
  • Organize the garden shed (mostly just get some shelves in there, and get rid of things we don't need)

Making it Pretty:

  • Get dining room floor refinished
  • Make new baseboard trim for dining room, living room.
  • Put up wainscoting in the downstairs hallway
  • Paint (or rather, scrape, treat, prime, paint) the garage and shed
  • Paint porch floor
  • Refinish/rebuild old dresser to be sink base cabinet for 2nd fl bathroom, and install.
  • Replace mirrors and lighting in 2nd floor bathroom
  • Replace vent/light in 2nd floor bathroom
  • Powerwash the siding and foundation block

Keeping it in Good Condition

  • Address porch roof problems
  • Route remaining gutters further away from the house
  • Clean up leftover mold in basement and re-insulate
  • Check condition of crawlspace insulation

I hope to actually do even more, but I have to be realistic. Plus, there are so many unknowns, "will we have the grandkids full-time" being the primary one. One of the things that I've found helpful so far, in the two weeks or so that I've been using it, is to keep an active to-do list on my blog (see link on the right side of the page if you're interested). We'll see how this works in the long run.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cheesy, but we love it.

After looking at hundreds of fabrics, we have decided that we both love this one for the little cafe curtain in our kitchen:

It has "grandmother" in all these different languages. I see that it has "Nana," I just hope that it also has Abuela and Bubbe.

Lost again

I have three measuring tapes. I can't find any of them. Why does this always happen when I'm feeling most gung-ho to start planning something that can't be planned without accurate measurements?


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advice sought RE: toddlers and house projects

I know that some of you have one or more small children. How on earth do you do it? There are two of us and only one of our 19m granddaughter, and she isn't even with us full time (mostly all weekends though), but it just seems impossible to get much of any consequence done while she's here -- everything either has to be a one-person job, or it has to be doable while she's asleep (so much for my plans to install new shelves in the linen closet just outside of her room today...), or doable within the time span that she'll be content staying confined (crib, high-chair, playpen) which, needless to say, isn't long at all.

Anyway, I'd love to hear some feedback and tricks that folks with small children use to get things done. There's a chance that she'll be coming to live with us full-time for a while, and I can't see how we're going to get anything accomplished!! But I know there just has to be a way, there just HAS to be...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Too many questions at once about repainting our old garage.

I posted these questions in a forum where wonderful advice is generously given, but I think sometimes I ask too many questions at once, which causes folks who might only know the answer to one or two to not answer, and causes folks who might know the answers to all of them to not want to be bothered with so much at once.

So, I'm deleting that set of questions from there and getting ready to just post one initial question in hopes that will get an answer, then I'll go on from there.

And in the interest of not forgetting what all I'd asked, I'm copying what I'd posted here. And if you happen to know any or all of the answers, I'd love to hear from you!

Winter solstice is not exactly the right time of year to get hit with an intense desire to start doing the prep work for painting the garage, but I can at least start with the planning!

While the wood on our garage is mostly in good condition (except for near the ground in a few areas), the paint is peeling so badly that it's the main thing I use as a descriptor when giving people directions. I think this summer I'll finally be able to tackle repainting the garage as one of my summer-break projects.

My questions for now are:

  1. Is there any reason why I shouldn't start scraping on days warm enough to be outside this winter? It already only has maybe 50% paint coverage, and the rest bare grayed wood.
    (fyi, I hope to get the scraping finished before it's time to do ANY planting, even of early veggies, since my garden is right next to my garage and while I plan to be as careful as possible with the paint chips, I still don't want to get ANY lead paint chips/dust on my crops - I plan to very solidly secure a tarp over it for the duration of all scraping.)
  2. I know that I can't just prime over weathered wood. What's the best thing to use to treat it before painting? Do I need to wait a certain time between treating and painting? Also, if I need to treat it, does that mean that I have to get it TOTALLY stripped of all paint, down to 100% wood, or if there are places where the paint really doesn't want to come off can I just leave it? And how warm does it have to be (and stay) to treat the wood?
  3. With so much of the paint really really loose, is there some kind of attachment I can get for my shopvac to just wet it down (to minimize dust), scrape it and vacuum it up at the same time, at least for the first pass with the loosest paint?
  4. Should we paint it a taupe/brown to coordinate with the current color of the [vinyl siding that the PO's put up on the] house, gray to stay with what appears to be its original color, or base it on the color we finally decide on for some of the house trim? FYI we have an L-shaped lot so it's almost impossible to see the house and the garage at the same time.


Sometimes it's the little things...

While it's great to sit back and declare some big project finally DONE, there is something deeply satisfying in finding a way to crank through a bunch of little projects that have been nagging you for a long time. I don't know about other folks, but I have this amazing capacity to comment to myself every single day about some little thing that I really should do and that won't really take that much time, but week after month after year it just never gets done.

Well, I'm on a roll with little stuff. It started a couple of weeks ago with my making a list of stuff to get done over my holiday break, morphed into a list twice the size of the original, and is kept going by the combined satisfaction and challenge of watching that list being whittled away.

In terms of being organizationally challenged, I'm probably the perfect candidate for a PDA but I really don't want to have to deal with anything other than a pen or a regular sized keyboard, and my paper lists get written but then just get lost in the muck and mire of my overall disorganization. And I tried keeping lists on the computer, in Word documents or whatever, but it's just so easy to ignore them. But I may have finally come up with what works: Adding a to-do list to my house blog.

I'm actually maintaining two lists. The first is my active to-do list -- what I'm trying to get done in the next couple of weeks or months. It's going to include house stuff plus some not-directly-house-related stuff just to keep it all together. I say "not directly house related" because, for example, getting the long overdue package sent to my friend or getting things dropped off at the domestic violence shelter may not seem house related, but it clears out space, removes clutter, and even simply lets me cross it off my list and move onto the next task which is hopefully house related.

I crossed two things off that list today: Getting the pantry organized, and getting all of my knives sharpened. Considering that I was out of the house for much of the day, I feel satisfied with that. If I get a second wind I may tackle something else, but this is enough for today -- it is my first day of holiday break, after all!!

My second list is my long-term list. I organized it room-by-room, and have both big and small projects listed. I tend to forget things that I know I need to do but can't get to for a while, so this will help me record that.

I'm feeling on my way towards getting organized, and for an ADD queen, that's a damn good feeling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Oh, this will only take a half-hour..."

Well, it would have taken someone who knew what the heck she was doing "only a half-hour." For me, three.

The task? Sewing. Using the sewing machine that I bought 3-4 years ago and have now used 2-3 times. Attempting to finish the edges and then sew one freakin' 6" strip of material onto the bottom of a curtain, then sew strips of velcro along the top and bottom of that strip of material so that I can stuff a quilt-batting wrapped length of chain into the resulting pocket. Doing this to weight the curtain down to the floor so that all the first and second floor heat doesn't go whooshing under it, since the curtain is used to block the stairway to the third floor which we rarely use. Except for when I'm sewing, of course. It was kind of the equivalent of sewing one of those grain-filled "snakes" that you can get to block drafts at the bottoms of doors and windows onto the bottom of this curtain, except our occasional mouse problem dictates that using grain would be a Very Bad Idea, so I used chain and I wanted to make it removable (thus the velcro) so that the curtain could actually be washed if necessary.

Anyway, I'm babbling, but that's what happens when something you know a semi-competent person could do in half an hour takes you three. And along the way you misplace one part of the velcro then after 10 minutes of searching you find it on the back of your leg, attached to your sweatpants. And you forget the which direction to install the bobbin. And you realize after just ten minutes that the chair you chose to put into your sewing room is dreadfully uncomfortable and totally the wrong height. And your thread breaks about fifty zillion times. And you realize after three minutes that if you're going sew even small projects you need some decent light in that room, because you're old and therefor half-blind and even with your reading glasses on you can't see to thread the damned needle. Which you have to do over and over because of the thread breaking. And you feel ashamed because your mother sews so well (mostly quilts) that she owns six sewing machines (and variations thereof) including one which costs more than your car, and in theory you should have inherited at least one tiny spec of her aptitude. Plus she would have had that done in ten minutes, not thirty, even if she only used one hand. Then feel you resentful because one of the reason you don't like to sew is because in high school she forced you to sew every time you were on restriction, and you were on restriction a LOT.

Anyway, it's done, and the curtain is no longer pulled up by a draft of hot air looking for the highest spot in the house*. I'd take a picture but I'm more worn out and my back hurts more than if I'd just totally reorganized the garage.


*I originally wrote "a draft of hot air looking to get high" but I decided it wasn't appropriate, but it does tell you a bit about how frazzled I am by this if that's where my brain is going...

Monday, December 10, 2007

On the First Day of Winter break, My To-do List Said to Me...

One of the true joys of being a teacher is the time off. I'm off for winter break this year from Saturday the 22nd through Sunday the 6th, 16 days in all. I'm determined to get at least some little projects done in that time.

I'll won't do work on the house on:

  • The 22nd just because it's my first week of break and I need to be a slug.
  • Christmas eve since V will also be off work that day and we'll probably choose to be lazy slugs together.
  • Christmas day since we'll hopefully be seeing our grandchildren, when we're not being slugs, that is!
  • New Years Eve, though I won't really be taking off since I'll be running around getting stuff for our Quiet Romantic Evening at Home (which is going to include an obscene amount of carry-out sushi and other Japanese food -- yummmmm!)
  • New Year's Day since isn't it the law that you have to slug on that day? Besides some friends who just had their brand new house built are having an open house/brunch and we want to go see them.
  • And the 6th just because I need to go back to work the next day, and so some last minute serious slugging is in order.
That leaves me 10 days to do stuff. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not one of you super-heroes out there who remodel entire rooms in a day, build whole additions in a week. Nope, I'm just going to plan on getting at least 10 projects that should be easily done in a day (or much less) cranked out, projects that need to be done but that I've been avoiding.

I'll probably modify this as the time gets closer, but for now the list is going to be:

  1. Get all of the stuff we have set aside for the local domestic violence shelter delivered over there. Toss in a handful of $25 Wal-Mart gift certificates.
  2. Get the new shelves put up in the linen closet and organize that plus the cabinet stuffed full of way out of date toiletries.
  3. Build two shelves for the cedar cabinet, and get it moved back into place and stuff put in there that belongs there.
  4. Organize the pantry cupboard (it's scary; we have no idea what might be lurking under the layers of plastic grocery bags and reusable TJ's bags.
  5. Clean off and organize my desk and associated paperwork crammed in its drawers and the filing cabinet next to it.
  6. Go back through the attic, pull out things that can be recycled (boxes for stuff we've had past its warranty, for example), convince V to get rid of some of the crap that we do NOT need to be keeping, and add it to the shelter run pile. Done! 12/16: Boxes broken down and ready for the recycle run, we're getting rid of three of the extra chairs (two dining room, one office) that were stashed in the attic, and I listed a buttload of stuff on freecycle this weekend.
  7. Identify two dressers that we can get rid of, and get rid of them (DV shelter again). Actually we ended up finding a use for both of them - one now helps keep my office organized, the other is going to hold extra blankets.
  8. Get the 3rd floor better organized once there's room created by disappearing the empty unused dressers. Spent several hours yesterday (12/16) getting the 3rd floor a LOT better organized even with the dressers there. Put shelves in one of the closets to take some of the overflow from the attic. Went through the last of the moving boxes. Listed a bunch of stuff on Freeycycle. Got my sewing room much better organized - I'd call it 90% done, now! Found the parts (with one still missing - can I improvise? we'll see) needed to reassemble the futon couch.
  9. Paint the bottom part of the old enamel-topped table and bring it to the dining room with some baskets/bins for mail sorting.
  10. Uh... do one of the above tasks that still needs to be done because I blew off at least one more day to be a total slug.
I think I can do this. Or at least make a good dent in this list. We'll see.

Edited to add in a few more tasks that I can either substitute for items in the above list if I'm lazy, or add to the list if I'm ambitious:
  1. Get hanging chain attached to stained glass piece in kitchen
  2. Sharpen all my knives
  3. Get rid of all the recycling stuff
  4. Mail long overdue package to friend
  5. If we get a relatively warm day, do some garden cleanup and hack back some of the privet.
  6. Sort through old computer stuff, back up and wipe clean all old hard drives, get rid of most of it and organize what I'm keeping.
  7. I'll keep adding more things as I think of them.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Some (maybe) really good news

One of the flooring contractors for whom I got some really good references for both new floors and floor refinishing came today. This is one of the several contractors who told me that no way would they attempt to refinish a floor that had linoleum glue and felt still stuck to it.

Well, he came in today, saw how much I'd gotten totally off, saw how much I'd reduced the thickness of the rest of it, and thinks that they can refinish it. He pointed out the 1000 ways that it won't be perfect - the areas where it's been painted, the area that had been under the original cabinets up against an area with many stains, other stains, other significant dings, the many plumbing/heating holes they'll need to plug, etc. But he seemed actually very excited about refinishing it.

He didn't give me an absolute guarantee though. He said that they'd not really know until they started, and if they start and it clear is going to keep seriously gunking up their equipment, they'll have to pretty much stop right away and give me the choice of our manually taking the felt/glue down even further, or applying my deposit towards a new floor. But he seemed genuinely excited about seeing that it could probably be refinished.

So, fingers crossing here. He already warned me that the quote to refinish that floor will be somewhere between a normal refinish job and a brand new floor because of the extra work involved (lots of plugs, nails, a place that currently has just a 2x6 that they'll need to figure out how to "blend", etc.) and that's understandable. But it would just make me so happy to get that floor refinished instead of new floor put on top of it -- as long as I didn't need to take off all the felt/glue crap first.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

We can finally paint the kitchen

I've wanted to paint the kitchen for so long, but I brought in dozens, perhaps over a hundred paint swatches and never found anything that worked. Despite the fact that the colors that seemed to always look best were the greens, I didn't WANT more green, dammit, I wanted a really warm color, with orange being my tone of choice.

Well tonight we perused yet another bank of pain samples and came home with another stack. I did my normal ritual - take the colors and attach them to hang just behind/under the fronts of the wall cabinets. See, it's the natural oak cabinets with their yellow/orange tones that kept most warm colors from working in there.

I put up the colors and then start just looking at them, not just looking at the aesthetics but, at the risk of sounding really weird, I try to get a sense of how they make me feel, what emotions they provoke in me (if there's anything beyond ewww no). Until tonight, none of the warm colors have worked. But tonight I had up a half-dozen, and one just stood out. I called V. downstairs to look at them without saying which was calling to me. It took maybe two minutes, probably less, to decide definitively on the one I'd chosen. That's how we always end up picking color - we don't consider anything that doesn't just really FEEL right to both of us.

It's a mid-range tone, something like a brown-tinged orange, a lighter relative to terra cotta. But it works. V. even held it up to all of the key things in the kitchen - our painting of sunflowers, the stained glass of tulips, my 70's orange decoupaged breadbox, and they all went well. We even find a strange compatibility between it and the two mint-green tiles that I rescued that had been part of my beloved Granny's original kitchen - somehow, those two long edge tiles are going to be incorporated into a tile backsplash behind the stove.

Now I just need M.A. or Laura or ege's husband - you know, someone who actually can do a decent job painting - to come help me paint it. Because I really want it done nicely.

Maybe I'll ask for that as my Holiday present - hire a professional painter to paint the kitchen and the office, which might be a light teal though I'd love to find a soft warm grayish lavender/violet.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Random trivial updates

The new Dysons have arrived and OMG do they rock. One small indoor/outdoor carpet that sits on the path between the Dog Hallway and the back door was always impossible to clean. About 15 seconds with the Animal DC17 and that sucker was jet black clean and the canister was filled with inches of dirt and pug hair. Very disgusting but wonderful now to think that we have something that actually really seriously sucks around here but in a GOOD way.

No floor estimates yet - one guy came out but no estimate yet, the other guy was going to call Thanksgiving week to set up a time to come out but haven't heard from him. I'll blame it on the holidays and cut them a break, but I also know that it's just pretty consistent with the fact that around here, most contractors just freakin' suck about getting back to you.

Not our HVAC guy, though, as I've said before. He rocks. And his Young Squire helper is a fresh-faced example that some kids (and yes, very-early 20's qualifies you as "Kid" to me now) actually have strong work ethics and professional behavior and all that.

One recommendation, though: If you decide that behind an attic knee-wall HVAC service panel is a great place to hide ::ahem:: things that you don't want your grandchildren to find, it's always a good idea to remove them from behind said service panel before the HVAC guys arrive to fine-tune your system. If I had a blushing-deep-purple emoticon to use right now, I would.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hitting the CSA Jackpot

I finally found a local CSA that
  1. has shares small enough for the two of us,
  2. delivers in our area instead of requiring us to drive 15+ miles to pick it up,
  3. is very reasonably priced,
  4. offers a nice variety, with a good balance between stuff people use more often and things that are new/unusual to many folks,
  5. never overloads their CSA baskets with too much of any one thing like zucchini when it's in "can't even give it away" season,
  6. allows us to order additional produce, free-range organic eggs, and naturally-raised poultry and meats, to be delivered with our CSA basket,
  7. is run by Very Nice People (one of the other local CSAs is run by someone who comes across as a compulsive, aggressive control freak), and
  8. doesn't require work (one of the local CSAs requires each member to work a certain significant number of hours, but the costs are still as much or more than the other CSAs).
This makes me very happy.

In case you have no clue what I'm talking about, CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." Generally, CSAs are small local farms that apply natural and/or organic farming practices, though not all are "certified organic." While some CSA's simply allow members to order and buy what they want each week, and many CSA's are the farmers at your local farm markets, many offer a pre-paid discounted weekly farmer's-choice basket which is a sample of what was harvested that week. I like the challenge (or at least I like the idea of the challenge) of getting something new and having to figure out how to use it.

Now I'll need to decide what, if anything, to put into my own garden.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I miss you, Max.

Friday evening, just after 6, I said my last good-bye to Max, who was without question the most special dog I ever had. He was an odd and interesting mix of pitbull and whippet (and who knows what else) - looking like a scared, skinny pitbull. I adoped him in the spring of '93, when he was probably 2-3 years old. A small Philadelphia rescue group had picked him up off the street and gave his "owner" the choice of being reported for the the fight injuries indicative of being "pit bait" and the chain collar that had started to grow into the skin of his neck, or to sign him over to them. They signed. The rescue group had the collar surgically removed and began the process of trying to find a loving home for a fearful pit-mix dog that was not well socialized among people or animals.

A friend who was involved in that rescue group knew that I was looking for a companion for my other dog, but I never in a moment imagined that this agressive abused dog that she described would be a good match for Buster, but to finally appease her I brought Buster over. Despite the fact that Buster tended to just annoy other dogs (and many people) to death, and that Max tended to be higly agressive with other dogs, it was total love at first sight between those two boys, so he came home with me. And boy, what a lovefest it was for the two of them - I used to joke that with their big grinning faces as they did all the :::ahem::: "getting to know you" things that boy dogs tend to do, I kept expecting to find the living room where they stayed littered with cigarette butts and little foil packets. But they did definitely bond, and it wasn't long before it was clear that Max was a very special dog.

It took a long time to get him properly socialized, but within a couple of years he was the sweetest gentlest boy you could imagine. His two favorite things, beyond snuggling up to whoever would have him, were running (and the whippet in him made him run faster than any dog I'd ever known) and rolling in dead things in the park. Ah, well, he WAS a dog.

He was a total sun-god and would bask in the warm sun, even on the hottest days, and shiver like a blizzard was passing through if it dropped below 60 -- that is, of course, unless I had him out for a run on the beach where it could be 25 degrees and he'd still jump around in the water as if it were mid-summer.

I have so many Max stories, and it breaks my heart that there won't be any more, but as the weather started to get colder around here it became clear that his body wasn't at all up to another winter, that his quality of life was gone, and it was time to say good-bye.

Here's Max several years ago, basking in the sun, showing off his characteristic big happy-dog grin.

I miss you, Max.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dust mites and leaf mold and corn, OH MY!

My body has decided to do me the gracious honor of reintroducing me to one of the delightful wonders of my youth: Asthma. Except of course with the decorum of a matured lady, I no longer indulge in the loud wheezy rattling coughing hacking gasps for air that peppered my youth after I played in the forbidden hay lofts and corn fields and fall's leaf piles. This sudden resurgance of asthma in my middle years takes an outwardly more subtle form, card-on-bike-tire rattle replaced by long but ladylike yawns and short stops between breathy phrases as I struggle to talk, trying to force air into tightened passageways. I'm unsettled by the occasional sense of gradual suffocation, but I keep my head together enough to not freak the hell out on anyone, especially myself.

Asthma just sucks. It's awful. I got some work done on the house this weekend but there was no energy in it, only this sense that I have to slog through what needs to be done - laundry, mopping, sealing the bottom of the baseboards in the doggie hallway, going through another box or two in the attic. Nothing that will give me any real satisfaction. Nothing that takes me less than fifteen minutes when it should take me five. Nothing that will remotely push my body into feeling like it worked.

I've been having some restrictive breathing for a few weeks, or maybe even a few months (I tend to ignore such things), but honestly I think it was the allergy tests I got two weeks ago that sent me over the edge into this Asthma Hell a few days later, deep into breathing treatments and prednisone shots and "gee, your oxygen is only 93, if it doesn't go up I'm sending you to the ER" and two types of inhalers and one nose spray and two types of pills forever plus a week of prednisone to make me freakin' nuts and some antibiotics to take care of that fever, without bothering to look too hard for what the fever might be from. And still, there are bands on my chest, allowing me to breath but not with the full use of my lungs.

I can't transplant dozens of perennials, trim privet monster trees, get the attic insulated or the garage organized, put the gutters on the garage, or even figure out what to do with my outside potted herbs - the prednisone having stripped me of my logical stamina as thoroughly as the asthma removed my physical stamina, and so I just can't think of my options, and they may freeze before I can bring myself to evaluate the best possible solution. I can't put up the shelves in the linen closet, think through what type of bar we should use to hang up my mother's quilt, clean out the pantry, make pies, or even just clean my desk.

Ironically, we've dramatically lowerd our exposure to allergens since moving here: No carpet, just small rugs. A new central heat/air system wtih two 5-6" thick super-filters and a built-in humidifier. A house that's not subject to the endless mold and mildew that plagued our former concrete block beach cottage. Dogs (which, by the way, rank right up with cockroaches as The Two Things Leslie Wasn't Allergic To) are not allowed in most of the house, cats banned, no smoking inside. Sure we could dust and vacuum a bit more often, and we need to get those dust mite covers for the bedding. But we're doing ok.

I just want it to be over. I want to be working on my house, rearranging my garden, riding my bike to school on these cool fall mornings, frantically building my 4x4 boxes for next spring's garden, sitting thickly bundled on the porch with my morning tea as I engorge myself on long slow deep hits of the morning's moist cool clear air. I want to be well.

A cold, the flu - those I could deal with because there is an end to it. But asthma sucks. I have no guarantee when, or if, things will get better.

And I'm getting tested for food allergies Thursday. Please don't let life just dive straight down into Suck, full speed, by making me allergic to some of my most loved foods, like nuts and cheeses.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Exploring new ways to just suck it up

I couldn't resist that title. I really do feel like I have to just suck it up on a lot of things in my life, which isn't always a pleasant thing. And in the past few weeks I've been having a very rough time sucking it up - sucking up (in) air in particular, because of some serious asthma that's kicking my ass.

However, this time I'm actually very excited about two new ways to really suck it up:

The Dyson DC17 Absolute Animal

And the Dyson DC16 Root 6.

And both for around half the regular retail cost through a Dyson employee's "Friends and Family" discount. I don't think I could have ever justified the cost if I were paying full retail (and these suckers just never go on sale), but this will be a sweet early holiday gift to ourselves. With all my focus on not wanting to be wasteful, I'm feeling a wee bit guilty that our current vacuum cleaner is less than 4 years old and works perfectly, but despite it having a "hepa" filter, it stinks. It works fine, but there's this smell that just never goes away with most bag vaccuums even if you change the filter and clean that sucker out as often and as well as you can. I have received promises all around from current Dyson owners that the Dyson's don't stink.

I just love new toys for the house. Oh, and the handheld? I... um... kinda sorta forgot to double-check with V about ordering that before I added it to the order form. Oops.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my HVAC guys?

The chill of late fall finally upon us, my HVAC installer came out to check the balance of the systems, install new super-filters, and hook up the humidifier (though he can't really test until it gets dry enough to create a need). All as part of our initial installation costs.

He decided that the 2nd/3rd floor heat was not balanced as nicely as he'd like, so he did yet another load evaluation (couldn't find his original), then spent a full day here with his cutie-pie assistant, getting me all set up.

They even build an insulated cover for my 2nd floor emergency exit door which totally not installed correctly, so that we could just bash right through the cover and door in case of an emergency and lose a lot less heat in the mean time.

He says that we need to insulate the unfinished attic room where the unit is installed, and if he says we need to do it, we'll do it. Not this weekend - too much stress going on. But maybe next. We'll see.

We'll need them to come out and balance the first floor a bit as well, since the office is always a good 6 degrees warmer than the rest of the house. Then again, that's where the dogs sleep, so maybe it would be ok for them to be at 66 while the rest of the downstairs is at 60.

Speaking of temps, HVAC guy is amazed that we actually LIKE the thermostat set to 66 while we're here. He can't think of a house he's serviced where 72 wasn't considered the lowest comfort setting.

He also doesn't get why I want the thermostat programmed so that unless it's less than 55 in the house, the electric supplement heat does not come on. We always have the option of turning it back on if it gets wicked cold, but we really don't mind that it may take 2 hours to get up to temperature without using the expensive electric supplement. I mean, the thermostat is actually designed to ramp up the temps slowly between automatic setting, so if we say that we want it to be 66 at 5pm, it starts bringing the heat up at 3:30 so that it can do so more efficiently

We're just into sweaters and down comforters around here.

In other news, we'll hopefully have at least two estimates for getting a new dining room floor put down within the next two weeks. It would be totally luverly to get it put in place by mid-December, but that still might not be realistic.

And in even other news, very little has been done here around Casa de Jorge, a combination of V and I both being super-stressed for a variety of reasons, and my lifelong asthma deciding that it was tired of making only an occasional quick walk-on bit-part appearance in my life, and so now it's kicking my ass with a vengeance. Nothing like suddenly finding yourself feeling as if you were being suffocated to get you into the work-on-the-house mood. Ugh.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Halloween Harvest

This is what you logically should see when you Google "Halloween Harvest":

Instead, this is our Halloween Harvest at Georgetown House:

Yup, that's what I collected TODAY from our five tomato plants in our garden. On October 26th. Five days before Halloween.

And I'm sitting here in my office after midnight ("I go out bloggin'... after midnight... out in the moonlight...ju-ust like we used to do, I'm always bloggin'... after midnight, searchin' for you-oo-ooooooo" Oops. Sorry. Got distracted.)

Anyway, I'm sitting here and it's after midnight and it's now officially October 27th and I have the window open and the fan on. Now, one could argue with some merit that it could be because I'm, shall we say, a woman of a certain age. You know, that age when at any moment I'm likely to break out in a profuse sweat and have my face turn bright red like I'd just run a marathon and have this incredible urge to rip all my clothes off - in front of my students. However, I could also argue with some merit that it's because it's 73 in this room and only 69 outside.

And it's the end of October.

At least we have tomatoes. Lots and lots and lots of tomatoes with still many on the vine, waiting to ripen.

And it's almost November 1st - the date which for many years has been my "don't turn the heat on until" goal date, though I haven't made it to November 1st for as long as I can remember. Hell, I'll be glad to not have to turn the AC on after November 1st at this rate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Year-round sunflowers

An online friend made a casual post about how an hour of sunshine in her Pacific NW home gave her what she needed to paint this:

A few minutes later I asked if it was for sale, a few minutes after that she replied yes for far less than I ever imagined, and a day later I purchased it from her Etsy shop, which I didn't even know existed. It just makes me smile with its color and brightness.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Life on the front porch

I started my day sitting in a wicker rocker on my front porch, book in hand, shearling slippers on my feet, big mug of tea at my side.

Early-afternoon found me returning to that same rocker, book still in hand, slippers still on my feet, big glass of iced tea at my side.

As the sun set, I was back in the rocker, closing the book because of the darkness closing in, slippers still on my feet, and I sat through the sunset while drinking the last sips of a really kickass good martini.

The porch was what made us fall instantly in love with this house, from its wraparound coziness to the arts & crafts feel of its tapered pillars and low-pitched roof. And we still love it, especially on days like today where we can enjoy the last bits of this fall's unseasonably warm weather.

It was a good day.

What's wrong with graywater collection?

It's amazing to me that with all of the issues that we face with our fresh-water supply, both in this immediate time of drought and as areas continue to be increasingly over-populated, that so many state and local codes forbid graywater collection and reuse.

How much would we save if we simply set houses up so that water used in our sinks and showers/tubs was automatically collected to be used to flush toilets and water plants? The technology is really very simple, and yet it's generally forbidden by the housing codes in so many areas, including in our rural county.

Why?!? I just don't get it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My Favorite Houseporn

Sometimes I can sit for hours and lose myself in lust-from-afar over the houses listed on After I find something there, I always try to go to the original listing agency's site because they're the ones who will have the good picture, the details, the bigger pictures, the closeups of the woodwork, all that yummy detail that an old house freak like me just thrives on - all the joy of a porn site without any of the pop-ups, spy-ware, or computer viruses. I find myself going into mapquest to see just where the house is located, investigating what I an about little towns tucked away in the middle of nowhere in NC and VA and OH. I pull V over to look at cute little well-preserved craftsman-style cottages: "Look, honey, only $75k - when we retire [in 15-20 years] we can look for something like this anywhere we want. We can sell this house, buy a new one that's smaller, in good shape, with a bedroom on the first floor, tucked into a cute little town with a low cost of living that's perfect for the beginning years of our retirement."

Of course, many of the houses end up being in deteriorating towns that have quickly rising crime problems. Or they're in states that have passed laws that say that we're not allowed to even write out medical powers-of-attorney for each other in case one of us falls off a ladder and cracks our skull open and can't authorize our own surgery, or create wills that acknowledge that we both own the sofa and the dogs, because such paperwork would *gasp* give us rights just like we were MARRIED or something. Some houses just need a little too much TLC. Many wouldn't be remotely practical for two 60-something's searching for a place to hang out for the next 20 years. And some are just so far back in Boonieville that certain criteria important to retirees such as access to decent medical care simply couldn't be met without a private helicopter on-call for us.

But still I lust. For the moment at least, it's like regular porn-industry porn (or ::ahem:: so I've heard): I don't care that it's not realistic. I don't care if the pictures have been retouched. I don't care that it's no place that I could ever actually live. Just the chance to spend some time looking at those wood floors and fireplaces and original woodwork is all the fix I need to get off... the computer for a while and go read a book. ::hee::

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's not easy being Green

Today is Blog Action Day, and many of my fellow housebloggers are writing some very interesting posts on the topic of what we can do to save the environment.

I put off writing all day out of guilt, and then it dawned on me that that's what I'll write about: Not letting "oh I'm not doing enough" stop you (ok, not you, ME) from doing the little things that you can do, and improving on them in at least baby steps.

It's just hard to not slink into the corner when you read about folks who have completely eliminated their use of paper products (I even know folks who use rags and bidet-type things instead of toilet paper) , who never eat anything that's not produced/grown within 100 miles of their home, who don't own a car and bike everywhere, who bake all of their own bread in a wood-fired oven in the back yard, and who sell electricity back to the power company because of their solar panels or windmills or whatever.

However, I'm not one of those people. I dream about it, fantasize about it the way that pre-teen girls fantasize about being the next Hannah Montana, but I know it's not going to happen overnight or even over-year.

So here are my baby steps:
  1. We moved closer to work and replaced a 72 miles round trip daily commute (36 x the two of us) to a 3 mile round-trip total for the two of us. Yes, that means that we should be able to walk/bike but for V that's not practical and for me it's happening less than I want it to. But that's 33 miles a day less, more when I bike.
  2. We're finally recycling again. This house is 3x the size of our old house but has no practical place for recycling bins, and since we don't have curbside recycling, storage becomes a problem. I finally figured out that we could squeeze one of the little tarp-type material Trader Joe's bags behind our extra-skinny trash can, then bring it to the bins in the detached garage when it's full. Then when we're seriously out of room in the bins in the garage, I'll load them up and bring them to the recycling center.
  3. FREECYCLE. It totally rocks. I've listed and given away stuff that most folks would consider pure trash. I totally love Freecycle.
  4. Minimize food waste. We are serious about using up leftovers here.
  5. Grow what we can. OK, so right now it's only tomatoes, and I'm about to have to figure out what to do with fifty zillion green tomatoes. But next year I'll do a bit more, then a bit more after that.
  6. Lights out, or low voltage. We're working hard on turning off lights, and replacing bulbs with compact fluorescents. I'd feel a wee bit better if they had a better handle on what to do with the mercury in those bulbs, but hopefully by the time we need to replace them, there will be a disposal program around here.
  7. Rain barrels. OK, so I don't have them all built yet but they wouldn't have done any good in this summer's heavy drought anyway, but it's a great concept and very easy to make.
  8. Being more conscious about buying local and in-season. I'm doing better, but it's also turning out to be a challenge to balance that with minimizing food waste and minimizing my drive to buy those foods.
  9. Body heat instead of heated air. In the winter, we wear sweaters and thick fleece pants around the house, use an almost too-thick down comforter over our flannel PJ's, and keep the temps down low. I'm hoping that this year our near-90's temps in October will mean I finally meet my goal of not turning on the heat until after November 1st. I just reminded Von that the heat goes on when it gets below 60 in the house during the day. But even when we're heating, even though we now have these fairly efficient new systems, it will never be set above 68, and will generally be set much lower than that.
  10. The rag bin is there and we use it for most house cleaning tasks; we just need to find a way to use rags more in the kitchen, instead of always reaching for a paper towel.
So there you have it. It's not much, but it gives us a base to build on. So let me set some goals for me to meet by next year's blog action day:
  1. Get rainbarrels finished and hooked up.
  2. Start a compost bin and compost our food waste as well as the outdoor stuff.
  3. Plant at least 3 more foods that we will eat regularly into next year's garden.
  4. Buy all local meats, eggs and dairy.
  5. Bike to work at least 50% of the time that it's possible (due to weather, what I need to be wearing, if I have to go somewhere during work, etc.).
  6. Make my own yogurt regularly instead of haphazardly (we go through LOTS of yogurt here)
  7. Buy an energy-star mini-chest freezer for the extra produce we grow and foods we could buy local in season and eat year-round.
  8. Get out of the fast food habit (obviously benefits us not just for "green" reasons).
  9. Separate out the bottles on which we paid a deposit from the recycling, and have them picked up by someone who needs the money.
  10. Less computer, more reading.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shame on Jennifer Saranow and the WSJ

Back on 9/21, in a comment that she has since deleted, Jennifer Saranow from the Wall Street Journal left a message similar to this one as a comment on my blog:
My name is Jennifer Saranow and I'm a reporter with The Wall Street Journal in New York. I came across your blog and some of the posts fit into a story I'm working on. I would love to set up a time this week to interview you for the story. Look forward to hearing from you and really appreciate the help.
That was copied from someone else's houseblog, by the way - in the comment she left for me, she chose to omit her name and email, and only described her work as being for a major publication.

I'm writing this post for one single reason: So that if someone else is contacted by her and Googles her name or contact information (as I did, before contacting her), they can potentially find out about how she really works. Her name, her affiliation with the WSJ, her email and her phone number are all publicly available, so I'm not posting anything that's not already easy to find. I just want to make sure that it's easy to find in a place that directly addresses her tactics.

She told me, and the many other housebloggers that she contacted, that she was writing an article on people who throw "parties" to get friends to come over and help with work that needs to be done on their homes. I never did this (and had only mentioned the possibility of it in an earlier post) so I didn't have much to contribute, but I thought it would be an interesting article. I often talk with long-distance friends who are very much into home renovation about how nice it would be to live closer and be able to share work and trade off our various skills, so I enjoyed that they were writing on how people come together to help each other.

I was totally shocked to learn today about the real purpose of her interview: Her article, "The Three-Martini Renovation," was instead about folks who had house-fixup parties, served alcohol, and then had all kinds of problems as a result.

But the big problem isn't the topic of her article, though in my mind it belongs on some cheesy TV reality show, not in the WSJ. The big problem is that not only did she deceive the people she talked to by not telling them the actual focus of her article, she purposefully distorted many of the facts and pictures given to her to make them fit into this article. A fellow houseblogger, "1902 Victorian," has far more of those details to share; be sure to read the comments after that blog entry from even more folks that she talked to.

Shame on Jennifer Saranow for such unethical tactics. And shame on the Wall Street Journal for allowing them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

This is October?

Two days ago, I was running the air conditioner - and had been, for several days. Normally October is my month to battle towards my goal of not turning the heat on until November 1st. Normally, I lose. But still, it's usually one of my utility-bill break months, with minimal heat and no AC running.

Tonight it's cool but we still have all the windows open.

Today I picked another half-dozen very ripe wonderfully fresh and tasty tomatoes from my garden. One in particular was absolutely perfect: That heady fresh-tomato smell, the skin a clear deep red, the shape a perfect orb the size of a large orange. I used it to make myself a cheese, tomato and fresh-picked basil sandwich for dinner. A mist of EVO, some fresh ground sea-salt and pepper, all on some fresh nutty whole grain bread. Oh yeah. That's the perfect summer sandwich.

Except it's FALL.

And not only are my tomato plants covered in ripening fruit, they have new blossoms on them.

It's October. OCTOBER.

In other news, that damned rabbit ate all my fall broccoli plants. I definitely need to add a rabbit-proof fence to my gardening plans.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Getting misty-eyed over horse poop.

Well, not over horsepoop but over the kindness of the folks who are giving me a bunch of already well-composted horsepoop. A woman with whom I've exchanged lots of different things on Freecycle has a horse farm, and I had planned on going to her house this weekend to pick up as much well-composted horsepoop as I could get, in order to start working it into the garden beds that I plan to start preparing for the spring.

Then life exploded: Not only did I find out a week ago that my mom has a "severe bacterial infection consistent with active TB" and has been put on the meds used to treat multiple-drug-resistant TB (even though she's not yet officially diagnosed until they hear back from the CDC), we also got word that V's dad was just put into a nursing home and has been asking for Von, though they've been basically estranged for years. So we're going up there this weekend.

When I told my Freecycle friend that I wouldn't be able to pick up the composted manure this weekend, she and her husband offered to bag it up and deliver it for me. Normally I'm very reluctant to allow folks to do things for me that I can't necessarily repay in kind, but I'm learning to accept people's kindnesses.

While I'm at it, I want to do a shout-out to Deb, another person I met through Freecycle who is now a friend and neighbor. She is going to take care of our dogs this weekend, and despite being currently unemployed she is adamantly refusing payment.

What someone told me this morning, when I was expressing my discomfort about accepting people's generous offers to help out with things like this, is that I've always been a giver and never want to allow others to give back, but that it's time I learned that "what goes around comes around" applies not only to folks who do ugly things to other people, but to people who frequently try to be there for other people. It really is not comfortable for me, but I guess this is a lesson I should learn. It's humbling, and definitely makes me misty-eyed with thanks.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I want to be a foodie.

I'm not totally sure what really constitutes a "foodie" (a judge just used the term on Iron Chef) but my presumption of its meaning seems to really capture what I want: I want to really know food, know GOOD food, know how to plan simple but delicious meals that focus on seasonal and local foods, and know how to prepare really good food. The first thing out of my mouth every time I'm asked what I'd do if I won the lottery is that I'd attend a good chef school or get private training in cooking techniques. Ten years ago I seriously considered bagging a lifetime of techie work to go to chef school, but I just couldn't rationalize putting that kind of effort into trying to get into a job with terrible hours, rotten pay to start, difficult working conditions, and where women still have a rough time proving themselves to be as worthy as the guys. All I really want to do is learn to cook really well for myself and the people I love.

I don't do too bad, though. I'm a totally improvisational/gut instinct cook, which usually works and sometimes doesn't. I love cookbooks and cooking-related magazines and websites and cooking shows, but to me a recipe is simply a guide; in fact I wish I could be more disciplined to follow certain recipes in order to use them as a basis for learning a core set of techniques.

I am pretty proud of some of the things I made recently, though. The other night when our friends were in town, I made local kale sautéed in a really good olive oil with white beans, onions and garlic; penne pasta (boxed) with more olive oil and fresh grated really good parmesean cheese; and shrimp coated with a slightly spicy dry rub and course salt mixture and then pan grilled in my granny's 60+ year old cast iron skillet (one of my most precious possessions). Then tonight it was more pan-grilled shrimp, but this time coated with a paste of olive oil, salt, pepper and a little bit of brown sugar; simple white rice cooked with salt and olive oil and butter; and a sauce made from butter, lots of garlic, a bit of vietnamese red pepper/garlic sauce, a bit of brown sugar, a little squeeze of lime, and a whole lemon - I then took the sauce and used it to deglaze the pan once the shrimp were done. I'd planned to also roast some fresh local brussels sprouts, but it was late and they take about 45 minutes to roast properly, so that will make it into a different meal in a day or two.

What I enjoy most is figuring out how to make really good food that doesn't take hours and hours to fix. Tonight's dinner took me 20 minutes - the time it took the rice to cook. Dinner the other night took maybe 30, but a good 10 of that was just from washing the local farm-grown kale which is always dirtier than the presumably pre-washed stuff from the grocery store. I'm the queen of the quick meal, baby. I just want to be the queen of the quick meal made using better techniques, more focus on local ingredients, and a greater variety of foods and dishes.

If anyone reads this far, then there's a chance that you're a foodie as well. If you know of sites or blogs that really feed that need to learn more about cooking and share ideas and recipes, please let me know about them!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

What makes a house into a home.

The past few days have been delightful. Some very special friends from New Orleans have been here since Tuesday night, and I'm very sad that they'll be leaving tomorrow (Friday). It's been great having them here to just hang out, watching their two children explore the house, having our two granddaughters over to visit and observing how they interact, sharing meals together, running errands together. We've both joked (though it will never happen) about their buying the house next to ours. It would just make me beyond thrilled to have someone live next door who were truly close friends like this.

Oh, and my friend even willingly and with a smile on her face did some touch-ups on the dining room paint and did the cutting-in for our stairway, so that now all we need to do is roll it!!

So that's the story behind the sappy post title: It's when a house is filled with friends and family that you love that it really becomes a home.

Happy Birthday, Von!!! I love you (even though I doubt you'll read this!) and love the home that we have together.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

There's something just immensely soothing to an old house freak about just reading through the titles in a forum populated by old house freaks like me:
  • Vintage thermostats
  • Carpet vs wood floor
  • Save the Moss House!
  • Bathroom pictures
  • Would you paint this screen door?
  • BEES!!
  • What was the purpose of this dormer window?
  • Ghost story, anyone?
  • What I did this weekend
I don't even have to read the threads, just reading the titles is enough to start feeling at home. These are my people, my tribe. They GET IT in a way that non-old house lovers will never understand.

Now, off to look at bathroom pictures and maybe write about what I did this weekend.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

You know your body is going to hurt by the end of the day when your gardening tool of choice necessity turns out to be a heavy pickax.

Let me explain.

We have an odd backwards-L-shaped lot. Our garage and garden shed are situated along the line between the two sections, and the rest of the side section is a huge parking lot extra-wide driveway. Between the vast wasted space in that area, the good sun, and the lack of dogs to pee on my veggies, I decided that it was a great spot to put my garden.

Round 1 was to dig up the area that's not officially part of the driveway because it's to the side of the garage, behind the garden shed, and everything we put there did very well. My plans for the spring were to redo the whole area into six or eight 4x4 raised beds, to do "square foot gardening," and building and prepping those beds is on my fall to-do list.

I came across some broccoli plants for fall planting and bought some thinking "I can just set up one of the 4x4's and plant these!! It shouldn't take any time at all, since I already have a 4x4 frame built and ready to go!! Ah, the enthusiasm of idiots innocents.

Looking over the site I was certain that the hardest part was simply going to be to hoe out the weeds then hand-till the spot and dig in some well-rotted compost that I was going to swing over and pick up from a horse-owning gardening friend who has way too much compost ready and waiting to be used.


The weeds on that side of the driveway hid the fact that there wasn't just a scattering of gravel there (it had looked like most of the gravel was in front of the garage). There was a good 6-8"+ of very hard-packed gravel. I'm not an expert gardener, but despite the fact that the weeds were clearly loving it, I didn't think the broccoli would be as fond of those conditions.

The gravel-packed dirt just laughed at the shovel. It broke the handle of my favorite hoe. It refused to allow the gardening fork or heavy rake any headway. So out comes the pickax.

What followed was a workout that no one at Gold's Gym could have forced me into. It doesn't sound as much work as it is, but (in stages) I loosened the soil with the pickax to make it possible to shovel it up, then put 1-2 shovelfuls at a time into one of those 1'x2' or so plastic thingies that serve as a base for a group of plants at the garden store, shook and massaged it over the wheelbarrow to separate the gravel (which mostly stayed in) from the dirt (which mostly sifted through), dumped the gravel onto a tarp, repeat repeat repeat until the wheelbarrow was mostly full and I had a large pile of gravel (both substances being about equal in builk). I then took the gravel over to spread in sparse areas of the driveway that are supposed to have gravel, dumped the dirt from the wheelbarrow onto a second tarp, and repeated THAT cycle probably 10-12 times.

When I started, my plan to get out all the gravel. About 1/4 of the way through I figured I'd be satisfied with most of it. As I was nearing the end of what I accomplished I decided that 6" was deep enough no matter how much gravel was left.

Of course, what comes out must go back in. At this point, going to the horse farm to get compost wasn't going to happen, so I put in about half the dirt, mixed the other half with a bag of fine chicken-scratched (and chicken pooped) leaf mulch that I had left over from the main garden bed, and put that back in.

I then couldn't find my hand spade. I couldn't find ANY of my hand spades. After 20 minutes of looking, and an aborted attempt to just poke holes with a pointed 2x2, I finally found an old rusted bent cheapo spade in a basket of my granddaughter's old play-in-the-sand toys that would just freakin' have to do. I got my broccoli planted and managed to summon the energy to put my tools away.

Oh and then since Von's still out of commission with a post-surgical hand, I then cooked dinner, washed the day's dishes, cleaned up the kitchen, de-ribbed the kale I bought today at he local produce market, did two loads of wash, and took a shower.

My body HURTS.

And if my friendly neighborhood rabbit decides that broccoli shoots are the best thing going, that little fucker's going to be introduced to Julia Child. Actually, I think one of my Jacques Pépin cookbooks has a section with full-color photo-illustrated very detailed step-by-step instructions for skinning a rabbit. I've always avoided it before, but under those circumstances I'd open it with pleasure.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Joys of Organizing

There are just some times when the satisfaction of finally tackling a long-overdue organization project is better than "the joys of sex." The work I did on the garage today was definitely one of those times. I'm not done, not even close to halfway. But damn, it feels good. I'm having to work around a few things that I just can't do/move by myself, but I should have a lot of it done by tomorrow.

As predicted, I'm starting to find things that I thought we'd lost forever - or things that we've already long replaced. Like leashes. After we moved in last year, we couldn't find any of the dogs' leashes. We now have three dogs, only two that can be walked (the other is too old and falls down too much), and five retractable plus seven regular leashes, and enough dog toys to last the pugs until their old age. And since I'm starting on the big stuff, like moving large piles of wood out of the way and getting rid of totally non-functional furniture and things that must be freecycled, I'm sure I'll discover an entire Lowes store worth of stuff that we need before I'm done -- or at least stuff that we needed at some point recently, but then ultimately replaced because we couldn't find it.

I tried my damndest to hide the gigantic professionally framed oil-retouched photograph that my folks had done of me when I was five years old, thinking that Von (who loves it) must have forgotten it by now, but wouldn't you know it that Von would come in and spot it tucked behind a cabinet before noticing practically anything else of my work, scold me for trying to get rid of it, then put up a huge fight to hang it in the living room. I'll hang ME in the living room before I let that picture live in there. We each have our own private rooms on the 3rd floor, and Von can put that picture up there where I don't have to see it, thankyouverymuch.

I took before pics of the garage and I'll take and post the before and after pics once I'm done.

Now if I could just figure out what to do with the extra picnic table set that lives in the middle of the garage that we never use but won't get rid of because Von and Chanel hand-stenciled it...

Friday, September 14, 2007

A note to my houseblog friends

While I really haven't been commenting much lately on most folks' blogs, I wanted to just do a heads-up that if you start seeing comments from "Leslie," that's me (probably - unless there's another Leslie). It just dawned on me that I'm trying to maintain three separate blogs but all three were being signed "Georgetown House" and that was just seeming weird.

So now it's just me. Leslie. But still at Georgetown house.

Maybe once the pie is done I'll go read me some houseblogs. It's been too long time away.

Sushi and Peach Pie

It keeps threatening rain so that's reason enough for me to bag the weeding I had told myself I should do.

Instead, Von and I just finished off the supermarket sushi that I bought as a "thought you might enjoy this" treat that in truth was as much for myself as for the poor patient, and I'm waiting for a pot of water to boil so that I can peel the local peaches I bought for a big yummy peach pie. Again, "oh honey, this is a yummy treat just for you!!" Yeah, right.

On the "oh shit" side of things, I just realized that my dishwasher (Von) is completely and irreparably out of commission for the next week, meaning that I'll be doing all the cooking AND washing the dishes. **mumblegrumblegrowlcuss**

So, I've got "Party Favorites" cranked up on the cable-feed music with the bass a little extra-thumpy, I'll make up a yummy fresh peach pie, do the dishes, and maybe sip on a chocolate martini or something equally decadent while I'm at it.

Von's hand surgery today means...

...that I can focus on whatever I want to get done this weekend without having to negotiate priorities. Von definitely isn't big on prioritizing gardening or organizing, even if I'm the only one working on it, so this is my chance, especially since we're still riding on the high that comes from finishing a big [for us] project (dining room/hallway painting). Go, Vicodin!

So far my tentative plans are:

  • Sit on my ass doing nothing for a bit longer
  • Go out and apply the weedkiller that I've reluctantly accepted is our only real option in the driveway
  • Chop out as many weeds as possible then start putting newspaper (NOT weedkiller) down on the weeds/grass in the area I plan on turning into garden beds to help keep them from regrowing/growing more.
  • Pick up the grandkids and go play for the afternoon at the local Pridefest
  • Do some spare room organizing in preparations for some much loved house guests who are arriving in a few days.
Sunday (high 60's and clear - WOOT! for the weather!)
  • Start getting the garage organized
  • See if my friend will come over with her tiller to help me move some flowers

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Just in case anyone is interested...

I created a separate blog that I'm going to use for general updates, ramblings, to-do lists, questions to the universe, and rants (probably thickly laced with profanity) with regard to this wedding that I'm now going to be planning. If you're masochist enough to want to read about this stuff, the website is

Fulfilling my Grandmotherly duties

As I have mentioned before (for those who do not know this already) grandmothers are legally required to foist pictures (and, when possible, videos) of their grandchildren onto unwilling strangers on at least a semi-annual basis, particularly for any major event in their grandchildrens' lives.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, is my baby granddaughter finally walking, after many weeks of only taking one or two very tentative steps at a time:

Soon to come: Elder granddaughter doing her self-choreographed dance moves while singing to Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus. I know y'all just can't WAIT for that one!!

(and yes, those are my two fugly free couches in the background with their ill-fitting need-to-be-tucked-back-in-place slipcovers. One of these days we'll have grownup furniture in the living room, I swear it.)

It figures.

"Hmmm, it's 12:15, the plumber said he'd be here sometime in the early afternoon, I'm just going to squeeze in a very quick shower before he gets here. I mean, what's the chance of his getting here in the 3-4 minutes it takes me to do a quick PTA? :::turning on the water, stepping in, quickly lathering my hair::: ok it would really be hysterical if right now while I've got a head full of suds, suddenly the water...."

::klank sputter drip nothing::

It was less than 60 seconds after stepping into the shower that he turned the water off.

At least the plumber, his helper and I were all laughing when I opened the door, wrapped solidly in my most modest robe but otherwise dripping wet, and asked him to give me just five more minutes of water before he got started.

Now I need to have him show me where the house shutoff is located, since I have absolutely no idea.

And just to make sure that I don't forget it: Happy 90th Birthday (tomorrow) to my beloved Granny. You will always be my greatest inspiration, the one true hero of my life, the person who taught me the most about being a strong independent woman and about how to give completely unconditional love. You no longer know who I am, but your smile and your voice still show me who you really are. I love you with every cell in my body and every bit of my soul.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

*tink*tink*tink tink* May I have your attention please?

Our priorities with regards to what we work on over the next year or so may have just changed, though which direction they'll change will depend on whether we decide to get married here at the house (making more visible projects a higher priority) or somewhere else (making saving money a higher priority).

Yup, folks, we're getting married.

Not that we don't already consider ourselves married already; in fact we had a private (just the two of us) ceremony formally expressing our commitment to each other several years ago. But this will be the part where I finally have a reason to put on a fancy dress, Von gets an excuse to wear a tux, we get to hang out with a few dozen of our friends and family, and more than anything, we get to exchange vows with those friends, family, and God as our witnesses -- all of whom we hope will share in our happiness, celebrate with us, hold us to those vows, and support us through times when things aren't going so well. And then we dance. And eat. And dance some more. And hope there are a few Lowes' gift certificates slipped our way as gifts.

So far we're pretty light on the details: Von asked me the other night if we could get married with a public ceremony, and I said yes, and that's about as far as our conversations have gone . Since the only time for us to do something like this is while I'm on summer break, I'm guessing late spring 2009, since I can't imagine my getting my act together enough to plan this for next year, or our getting our finances together enough post-all our recent big expenses, plus I'm not into the heat and humidity of our summers here. When we were semi-planning something like this years ago (before life got in the way), we decided on a Jewish wedding (since I'm Jewish though basically no one else there will be) and a Latin reception (since Von's PuertoRican and Dominican). We want low key and low budget, and since it will be a stretch if we come up with even just 50 people to invite, that will help keep the expenses low and the intimacy high.

One thing we do want though, is a "honeymoon" in Canada where we will have a short civil service, so that at least someone somewhere will recognize that when we're a couple who owns a house, pays our taxes, fights but works it out, wills each other everything, works together to help raise our grandchildren, and is willing to make a personal and legally binding commitment to each other, then dammit we're married, and we are NOT legally strangers as the US and most state governments consider us to be. It's hard enough knowing that no matter what kind of paperwork we draw up, I could be denied access to Von's hospital room if she were to become seriously ill, that her father from whom she is totally estranged could swoop down and take her body away from her and bury her in a dress while their evangelical church prayed over what a sinful life she'd led, that Von will have to pay taxes on everything I leave to her if I die, that if Von dies in the line of duty I am not entitled to the same compensation that any other spouse would get, and the list goes on and on and on. Why do so many folks insist that my wanting those things is asking for "special rights?" Whose marriage am we hurting by wanting our relationship to be both legally binding and legally recognized?

Sorry to get so political and near-pitiful on you, folks. But there is no question that Von is my life-mate, my spouse in not only my eyes but our family's, our friends', our coworkers', and our God's. I'm just tired of fighting, and sad that we have to get passports in order to get to a more civilized country who will legally recognize our commitment to each other.

(fyi, MA requires you to live there to be married there, and I'm not willing to settle for the "separate but kinda sorta equal" that a few other states have provided.)

Ahhhhhh, now THAT felt good...

After an entire summer of putting off fixing the outside spigot ourselves (which the PO's inconveniently placed inside the crawlspace) with its broken handle and its shutoff that doesn't shut off, I just placed a call to a Highly Recommended Plumber who will be here in 15 minutes. We plan to hire him to fix all that needs fixing plus put the faucet on the OUTSIDE of the foundation where we really need it to be.

I haven't met him yet but this guy sounds like exactly the type of plumber we've been dreaming of finding: For years he owned one of the ares larger plumbing business but it just got to where, to quote my HVAC contractor who recommended him, "it just wasn't fun any more" since all he was doing was running the business and supervising a large staff who was mostly doing big new construction jobs. He wanted to go back to actually doing plumbing, so he sold the business for a buttload of money and is back to doing mostly relatively small jobs where it's just him and maybe one occasional assistant.

So, we're slowly finding all the essentials in life: A good electrician, a good plumber (if he works out, that is), and a good general handyman. Now if I could only find someone within 40 miles who was willing to work on my Mazda minivan I'd be happy.

Update: Got an immediate good impression of him. He's going to come do the work tomorrow, "shouldn't be more than $150, depends on how long it takes me to drill through that beam there." He's going to put in a spigot that doesn't need to be shut off during the winter. And it's worth way more than $150 to have someone else take on this task. WOOOT!!

Now if I could just win the lottery and hire folks to do EVERYthing around here. I am most definitely not one of those folks who does this work for the joy of it; I'd be very happy to let someone who really knew what they were doing do it all, thank you very much.

The Pee-Proof floor is finally done

And here we have it folks. While the rest of you are showing off your gorgeous kitchens, rooms full of custom made-by-you woodwork, the bathroom you remodeled last weekend, and (for the angolito types among us) this month's house purchase and remodel, I'll show off my measely little hallway, now made relatively pee-proof because of the big guy in the first picture is an obsessive marker (which is probably how he ended up in pug rescue to begin with).

Bad doggie hallway:

Nice doggie hallway:

(minus the dogs, all the dog's stuff, the cabinet at the end, the new trim so we just put back the old, etc.)

Not only does the paint look a lot lighter on my monitor than for real, the wall at the end of the hallway looks white! It's not, it's the same Cincinnatian Hotel Taupe as the rest of the hall and dining room, a color I'd describe as a golden-brown coffee with a lot of cream in it.

One thing I'm going to do to add to its pee-proofness is run some clear caulk under the baseboards,so that if the little ****er lifts his leg on something, it can't run under the baseboards to where we can't clean it up properly.

The vinyl sheet flooring is only considered a 5-year plan; we hope he'll either grow out of his marking, or I'll kill him, we'll see which one it is.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Does this make me somehow less of a REAL do-it-yourselfer?

I know that the decision I made yesterday certainly hurts my creds as a serious tool-slut in some folks' eyes, that's for sure.

I bought a finish nailer. Yes, that's a normal thing for a DIY-ing tool-slut to buy.

But I didn't buy a pneumatic nailer, I bought a Black & Decker Firestorm 18v 18 gauge electric/cordless nailer. Not one of those propane-based cordless nailers, just an ordinary cordless tool.

I anticipate so many of my house-fixup friends cringing and gnashing their teeth as they read about this. "WHY?!? Why not a pneumatic? Why waste your money on this cordless piece of crap when you could get a good compressor/nailer kit for only twice that?"

Probably someday I'll start doing the pneumatic tool route. But as I look at the projects we're realistically facing in the next few years, about the only thing we need is a finish nailer, and about the only thing we'll need it for is hanging some trim, installing a bit of wainscoting, and maybe assembling a medicine cabinet (hmmm... I need to add "build medicine cabinet" to my "50 by 50" list). And I just really like the idea of a totally cordless nailer. I checked with a couple of people who have the B&D nailer who said that it does just fine for what they need. I checked the reviews on various sites and they all were fine. I live close to a B&D outlet. I got a brand new one for around $100. It has a two year warranty and they give you a brand new one with a brand new 2-year warranty if anything goes wrong. I tried it, putting back up some of the trim we removed from the hallway, and it works GREAT.

So yeah, ok, it's not pneumatic. But don't even think of trying to challenge my tool-slut creds.

Now if this one last patch would just hurry up and dry so I could paint it so I could put the rest of the trim up, I'd take pics to post!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The original flooring is dead. Long live the floor.

We think we're nearly ready to pull the plug on all our hopes of restoring our dining room floor. We were so excited a few months ago when we realized that there was original wood flooring under the dining room's nasty carpet. But it's wasn't exactly the fairy tale that others get to live, of pulling back carpet to find a beautiful condition original floor underneath. This floor wasn't in great condition, and we think there's a good chance that we'll never get it to even decent condition, particularly relative to the money and work we'd be sinking into it, because
  • it was never finished to begin with
  • it's probably much lower quality wood, meant as simply a subfloor to the linoleum that was in that room when it was originally the kitchen, the 30's version of a plywood subfloor
  • it can't be refinished until days and days and days of backbreaking scraping are done to take up the glue and felt from the old linoleum (floor refinishers won't touch it until every bit is gone)
  • we can't tell how badly it might be stained under all that felt and glue (it was a kitchen, after all, and a kitchen that had a fire no less)
  • there are a whole bunch of holes where water pipes and drain pipes and radiator pipes poked through the floor that would have to be patched
  • there is about 5sq ft that is missing and just has plywood in its place.
Add all those together, and it just seems not worth the effort. Not cost effective, not time effective, and no guarantees that I wouldn't slit my wrists with a floor scraper before we were 1/4 of the way done.

So we haven't said our final goodbye's or made our final decision yet, but the I think we're hearing the death rattle. I'm investigating other flooring - just to help us make a decision. I've emailed someone who, a few months ago, had a good price on salvaged heart pine - just in case we decide to go that way.

If we end up giving up on the original floor, I'll be sad but I won't mourn for long. I'll be too busy arguing with V over the fact that we absolutely positively could not even consider the possibility of putting back that badly stained 1x6 construction-grade lumber that the PO's used as "baseboards" throughout the house, not on top of newly refinished floors. No way, uh-uh, fuhgedaboudit. I will sneak out in the middle of the night and bring it all to the landfill if I must, in order to keep it from going back up in that dining room. V doesn't even fully realize yet that the battle lines have been firmly drawn on this issue and I WILL emerge victorious. But she'll be ok being the conquered one once she sees how nice it will look with baseboards that actually look good.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A'painting we will go

We're finally painting the dog hallway (done except for some touch-ups) and we're in the middle of painting the dining room, which we hope to finish by this weekend. Finally found a color that we both said "YES! THAT one!" to - Just happened to be one of the historic colors: Cincinnatian Hotel Taupe, which translates to a kind of coffee heavy with cream with a hint of gold. My first choice was very similar and I wanted it just for the name: Dust Bunny. Now, how appropriate would THAT have been, huh? We'll hopefully get the baseboards back up in the hallway tonight, so I'll take pictures of our New Improved Doggie Hallway. The appearance (and, I'll fess up, the SMELL) is like night and day.

We finally caved and decided we're going to try and hire someone to do the dining room floor. It's just too much work, and we're too impatient. OK, and too lazy. That's one hell of a job. I start calling floor contractors today, starting with one that a coworker recently used and loved.

I miss blogging, and even more than that I miss reading other houseblogs, but life's just been too busy these days. Perhaps after the semester gets fully running, there will be time to just kick back and read.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Mom (well, her quilt) is a covergirl!

I had to brag on my mom, since she (well, one of her quilts) became the covergirl for the current issue of McCall's Quilting magazine. The quilt is one that she designed herself, and they included a bunch of photos plus the full directions for making the quilt, which they rated as "Advanced" in terms of the skill level required.

Her picture's even in the magazine, but I told her that it doesn't count as a centerfold if she doesn't have a staple through her belly.

Needless to say, I"m rather proud of her.

Monday, August 27, 2007

An anti-dog cleaning spree

Well, not anti-dog but anti-dog smell. The dogs are confined to one room and one hallway, but between one of them being a partially incontinent old man and the other being a testosterone-poisoned obsessive marker, it wasn't pretty.

So on Sunday we had a Cleaning Marathon and tackled it all with a vengeance. Step 1 we actually did last weekend, when we took up the carpet and put down the vinyl in the hallway. Yes, a marking dog and a carpeted floor is a really nasty gross combination. This weekend's tasks included deep-cleaning the crates, deep cleaning the floors, saturating everything that ever touched Dog with Nature's Miracle, removing the area rug, removing all dog bedding ( no matter how much they loved it) that wasn't easily tossed in the wash or that was made of some nasty synthetic that held onto dog smells now matter how well you washed it. I also cut in half and sewed up the cut edges of some way over-sized comforters that we used for dog blankets to make them more easily washable and to make it easier for us to swap out a stinky blanket for a clean one.

Oh yeah, and we cruelly tortured washed the dogs. What a concept, eh? Of course, Obsessive Marker Dog was seen shortly thereafter lifting his leg on Tiny Brat Dog as she peed. Oy.

Other than that, I got some stuff freecycled (some picked up, some scheduled for this week), we did a full dust/walls/floors cleaning of the house, and I spent several hours getting my sewing room put together which included *gasp* unpacking three more boxes!!! We've only been here, what, going on 15 months now?!?

Ahhhhh :::taking a deep whiff of the air::: Do I detect a hint of minty freshness?!?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

And the heat goes on...

(Sonny and Cher have eaten my head)

Today: Expected high 95 degrees. Current humidity: 95%. This is not a combination that is conducive to doing anything more than being a wilted vegetable inside the house.

But of course it's the PERFECT day for our AC to decide to not work up to snuff. Last night after running for several hours it was still 80 degrees and 70% humidity downstairs (outside was 76 and 95% humidity). Oddly enough, the upstairs unit seems to be running fine except that the thermostat is going wonky - it reads 80 when it's really 76 (and, accordingly, keeps running), then it reads 74 when it's really 76.

Thankfully Head AC Company Guy is here bright and early (though he seems as awake as I feel, as I'm missing my sacred ritual of sleeping in until 10) to figure out what's going on. He doesn't look happy, but then again neither would I if I were up doing service calls at 9am on a Saturday.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"Oh, we can do this in just a couple of hours, tops."

It is with great shame that I am admitting to the world that a pathetic little project - taking out the [nasty dog-pee-infused] carpet out of a hallway and putting down some sheet vinyl - has kicked my ass.

The first piece was easy enough to do, or at least it seemed that way until we realized that the amount of adhesive the HD guy recommended was bogus, and we had a 9' long section that was lumpy with excess glue. We gave it our best shot to smooth it out, squeegee it out, and finally we just picked up what we could of it and scraped off all the extra. And in the mean time I'm doing things like jamming one of my fingers and dropping large heavy tool batteries on my toe (ow! there were tears!)

By the time I was done with that first section, my back and knees were killing me. I was cranky, not nearly as careful as I had been earlier, but I got the second piece cut (this one was tricky because it included two doorways and a heat register, then turned the tools over to Von to glue down while I headed up for a long shower.

Several hours later my whole body aches, in that "don't even THINK you are going to be able to fall asleep without finding a hidden stash of percoset, darlin'" kind of way. Thanks to V's kindness I was treated to a backrub complete with sore-muscle cream, so now I smell like I have bathed in a really intense double-bubble bubble gum scent. My toe hurts but I didn't break it. My knees are a fascinating bright red, with dark bruises under the red. Of course, I never contemplated knee pads, I was too damn busy getting freaked out about the possibility of getting a permanent gob of floor adhesive stuck to my favorite rolling pin.

I'll post pictures once we put back the baseboards, which will be after V. paints the room, which will be after V finishes patching the drywall holes in there (one dug by our very own Lucy)
and my selecting and buying the paint.

I'm wondering if I actually got the ADD meds which my doctor will prescribe if I want them (since I have a real live gen-yew-wine ADD diagnosis with all the classic symptoms, which combined with menopause brain makes life quite challenging), if I could start accomplishing what 98% of the folks in housebloggerland seem to be able to do, such as completely remodel entire rooms in a weekend.

OK, it's 2am, school's back in session which means I must go earn my living tomorrow morning, and I need to make an attempt at sleep. Oh gee though look at this: Major thunderstorm just crossed over the Chesapeake Bay, headed straight for us. Even if I go to sleep now, I won't be sleeping for long it seems. Wheeeeehaaaaaaa!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Peeking in and waving

Life's just been far too nuts to blog: Illnesses, surgeries, cancer and heart surgery scares with friends and family (though everyone's pretty much ok for now), almost-walking babies and serious attitude pre-teens on the weekends (we're surviving both), a week-long trip to San Francisco for the LinuxWorld conference (where I stayed in a cool old house, met some wonderful people who I knew from online, ate some great food, learned a lot at my conference, and won a 250Gb external HD but did NOT win an iPhone, Wii, laptop or Vespa, dammit!), and I am now buried under "fall semester about to begin" insanity.

And except for general cleaning and a wee bit of late-night "if I don't do something I'll go nuts" organizing, life's been too nuts to do anything on the house, either. My only accomplishment worth bragging about - that I'm now riding my bike to work most days - isn't house related and is a pretty shameful thing to brag on considering that I only live a mile away and there's practically no excuse to not walk or bike, and yet last year I only did that twice.

Even through we've been overwhelmed with so much stuff, once the semester is actually started, V. and I are going to try and make a commitment to do at least a little bit every week; surely we can find two hours a week to work on the house, even if it's just organizing stuff in 15 minute increments.

Anyway, I doubt seriously if anyone missed me, but I just wanted to poke my head up and squeak "I"m here!" for a moment anyway.