Tuesday, May 19, 2015


We FINALLY had our sink drain fixed - you know, the one that Larry was trying to fix himself right before we had to go to a cocktail party, oh, 5 months ago?  That one.  We also had the tub drain in the main bathroom unclogged.

Picture it - for the last few months, we have all been showering in the master bathroom and then going into the main bathroom to do things like shave or brush our teeth. Why? Because I refused to call the plumber until I could make the master bedroom look presentable.  And that never happened because Larry insists on tearing apart different sections of our home, an activity that results in tons of misplaced items that all seem to wind up in my bedroom.

Case in point: I just pulled several pieces of 6-foot-long quarter-round out from behind my bed. If you don't know what quarter-round is, consider yourself blessed.  I didn't know either, until I had the misfortune to set up housekeeping with a DIY-er.

What finally broke our plumbing impasse was my realization, while cleaning the master bathroom shower last week, that the tiles in the shower wall moved when I scrubbed them.  I called the plumber to unclog the main tub so we could shower in the other bathroom, instead; and while he was here, I swallowed my pride and allowed him access through my cluttered bedroom to unclog my sink as well.

We need one of these.
Of course, we're not actually fixing the master bathroom tile.  That would involve a bathroom remodel (it's all original and falling apart), but we can't do that until I let Larry rip out the front wall of our bedroom and master closet to put insulation in there. Because it's all connected to the bathroom.  Also, I need to go rob a bank somewhere.

Look, I can't help it if you are getting confused.  It's the Domino Theory of Home Renovation - one thing always leads to another.  And everything costs way too much money.

I comfort myself with the fact that my laundry room is on Day 3 of remaining all cleaned out.  Of course, it helped that the HVAC guys were down there for the past 2 days working.  I'm thinking of putting a lock on the door now and not giving Larry the key.  That way, he can't sneak anything back in there.

Anyway, I have a question completely unrelated to all of this.  Can any of you recommend good women's hiking boots? They don't have to be too heavy duty (or expensive - see above, re lack of cash), just suitable for hiking in rocky areas.  And they need a wide toebox, or I can't walk right.  Suggestions?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Silver Lining

Remember this? I wrote it over 7 years ago, when Larry had to clean out our laundry room in order for some plumbing work to be done. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you can probably guess that the laundry room didn't stay cleaned out.  Au contraire, I had resigned myself over the intervening years to treading an ever narrower path to the washer and dryer, while most of the room was taken over by what both Larry and I euphemistically called "The Pile" - literally, a pile of stuff that found its home in the middle of the laundry room floor and kept growing.

Sure, we should have done something about it; but what with Larry being a natural pack rat and my being busy with raising kids, keeping house, homeschooling, and becoming addicted to Words With Friends, I just couldn't keep up with all the junk that ended up down there.  Occasionally I would challenge myself to remove 3 items a day, but I could never keep up with it.  And there was the time a few weeks ago when I sneaked 15 half-empty cans of paint out of the house because a friend's son was collecting hazardous materials for his Eagle Scout project.

15, people - that's just embarrassing.  And that number doesn't even include all the smaller jars of paint samples that went with them.

Excuse me while I swoon...

Well, at long last, my junk problem seems to be solved, because glory hallelujah, the HVAC guys are coming tomorrow; and, in order to allow them to install the AC and furnace,  Larry needs to clean out the laundry room and the basement area (which is FULL of leftover construction material from his insulation hobby).  Now not only will we not have to endure humidity thick enough to swim in, but I will also be able to reclaim the entire lower level of my house. Not to mention regaining my own peace of mind - let's face it, worrying about our fuse box and gas line being surrounded by flammable material was never conducive to a good night's sleep.

In other words, this HVAC installation that is costing us a fortune? Worth every penny.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

There Had Better Be S'Mores

Rachel and Susie are heading out on a one-night Girl Scout camping trip today.  I handed them their packing lists last night before heading off to Knit Night. I spent the rest of the evening blissfully serene in the knowledge that, upon my return, I would see their neatly packed pink duffle bags sitting in the front hall.

Oh, sometimes I just slay me.

So here we are this morning, packing.  I found the difficult stuff: the bug spray (go, me!), the sleeping bags, the mess kits; so I have no idea what the girls are doing up there.  I mean, how hard is it to locate a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, a shirt, some pajama pants, and socks?

Well, except the packing part...

Rachel claims she has no socks.  Seriously.  They all just "disappeared."  I suppose she thinks that there is a natural attrition rate for these things.

Actually, in our house? She's probably right.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Living Underwater, Sort Of

Look, I don't even know what happened to Monday.  There was a good nap in there, though.  And a bunch of driving.  And now? Now we brace ourselves for 90 degrees, a bucketload of humidity, and STILL NO AIR CONDITIONING. We've been lucky in that the temps and humidity have been dropping each night, so we start out in the morning at, oh, 76 degrees in the house, with breathable air.  But it goes downhill from there, as the humidity rises and it becomes ever harder to move or think at a reasonable pace

You know, there is a reason Southerners speak more slowly than people in the northern half of the US.  They just can't make the words travel any more quickly through that moisture-laden Southern air. In fact, there is no real Southern accent - it's just sound distortion due to atmospheric interference.

And...that's our science lesson for today.  I'm sure y'all are feeling vastly reassured about my teaching abilities, vis-a-vis my 6 homeschooled children.

Let us conclude with a picture of my gorgeous rhododendron.

There's an azalea trying to sneak into the picture there, bottom right. Pay it no mind.

Whenever I am having a bad day and feel as though I am getting nothing done, I go outside and give myself credit for not inadvertently slaughtering this beauty. Even before we bought this house, I had admired this rhododendron from afar; and, since we moved here, I have been careful never to even attempt to care for it, lest my black thumb jinx the poor plant. This photo makes it evident that it has thrived under my benign neglect.

Time to go manage climate control here. Also, apparently, some children want to be fed.  Enjoy your day, all you lucky AC-owning people, you!

Sunday, May 10, 2015


A little poem/treat for Mother's Day, from the inimitable Billy Collins:

And Larry did give me chocolates and flowers today, despite the deal I struck with him yesterday. He explained, "Of course I was going to take those things back to IKEA for you. I didn't want you to go - who knows what else you would have come home with!"  So there you have it, folks - he was acting out of self-interest, or so he claims.

I hope you all had a pleasant day, and do listen to that poem - you'll never be able to look at a child-crafted lanyard again without smiling.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

A Mess Of Pottage

A month ago I went to IKEA with 2 friends and bought new red slipcovers for our Ektorp couch and armchairs, because Larry and I are never, ever going to be able to agree on a new couch.  Desperate to replace our 7-year-old faded orange-red corduroy slipcovers, I got some red twill ones that promised not to embarrass me when I had the neighborhood ladies over for Bunko.

The color not taken...
But, once I came home and put them on the furniture, they didn't look right.  Too...red. I'm just being picky, I thought. It's fine. And then Brian walked into the room and said, "Those are too red." Later, a friend popped in and, upon being asked for her honest opinion, said, "Too red.  Cherry red. Doesn't look right with the Lenox Tan walls."

I waited for Larry, hoping he would deem them passable.  But no, he agreed with everyone else, so I took off the new slipcovers, crammed them (badly) back into their flat-pack boxes, and sadly put the bedraggled but properly hued ones back on.  And we went on with our lives.

Only, I had to return the slipcovers.  Which meant a 40-minute drive to IKEA, where I wasn't even sure I would get my money back, since the covers weren't put into their boxes properly. We put the boxes in my car and I drove around town with them for 4 weeks, until Larry said, "Hey, we need to return those, don't we?"  Because we're organized like that.

Now, understand here that Larry hates IKEA, with all his heart and soul.  HATES.  So, feeling as desperate as Esau was for his mess of pottage, I offered a deal: if Larry would take the darn things back, he was off the hook for Mother's Day.  No chocolates, no flowers, nothing.  Just get those boxes OUT OF MY CAR.

My knight in shining armor knows a good deal when he sees one, so he used his Saturday morning to drive 40 minutes to a place he hates and fix my mistake.  24 years of marriage tells me that that's a pretty romantic thing for a guy to do for the mother of his children. And I don't care one whit what happens tomorrow.

That would be me on the right, only without a beard

Besides, I've already picked up a container of HaagenDazs strawberry ice cream to enjoy on the big day. Maybe I'll even share it with Larry, if we can hide from the kids long enough. I think he's earned it.

[Ektorp image: IKEA.com]
[Mess of Pottage image: WikiArt]

Friday, May 08, 2015


We interrupt the whining about the heat and the broken AC to bring you this late-breaking news: The New York Times, that former bastion of intelligent journalism, is apparently not quite clear on the concept of the holiday we all will be celebrating, in one form or another, this coming Sunday. I know this to be true because they just tweeted this: Cook With the Kids This Mother's Day.

Yeah, all you moms out there, read it twice. Because I did.  And, in case you still don't understand what they are saying, it links to some fun recipes that you can have your children "help" you with, on your day off.

Let's see, I wonder what else the Gray Lady is planning to tweet today.  How about Clean All Your Bathrooms on Mother's Day? Or maybe, Go to Target With a Nap-Deprived Toddler and a Fussy Baby on Mother's Day?

Gosh, this game is fun.  Go ahead, give it a try in the comments.  What do YOU think The New York Times wants us moms to do on our special day?

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Strength Through Suffering

This looks to be more fun than HVAC.
You know what I would like?  I would like it if I could just get a break from doing grown-up stuff.  Oh, I don't mind the bathroom cleaning or the bed-making or doing the laundry - I mean, even my kids do that (after a lot of nagging, but still...). No, I mean the real grown-up stuff, like signing contracts that involve spending lots of other people's money or spending a lot of my own money on boring things like HVAC systems instead of trips to Hawaii or even that thing where I have to make myself go to the dentist, because there is no one around to tell me to do it.

I hate all that.

Oh, and if y'all need a good way to get in shape, just get your pre-teen daughter a decent bicycle and then try to keep up with her on a bike ride.  I've done it twice in the past two days, and both times I came home and passed out on the couch.  I'm telling you, it's not pretty being over 50.

And that's all I've got, folks.  Bedtime's a'calling, because apparently my nap wasn't long enough. We'll be hunkering down here for some Purgatory-worthy suffering over the next week, as our new HVAC system won't be installed until the 18th.  So what if it is heading into the 90's on Tuesday? Between the lack of air conditioning and my continuing to force the children to make ice cubes by hand, the whole experience can become a history lesson on how people lived before the mid-twentieth century. Experiential learning, that's what we homeschoolers call it. John Holt would be proud.

[Hawaii photo: ProTravel]

Monday, May 04, 2015

Loud Lady On A Train, Plus Other Stories

Yesterday? Was busy.  BUSY. First, in the morning, there was my fit friend, who is still trying to kill me by dragging me on long bike rides.  We biked 12 miles (well, that's long to me, darn it); and she insisted on talking about signing up for a century this year.  A century - 100 miles - which, last time I checked, is WAY longer than 12.

Usually, this is a fun ride.  USUALLY...
Then, it was time to hop a train into the city for Listen To Your Mother DC.  Normally, I enjoy long train rides.  They give me time to knit and people-watch, 2 of my favorite activities.  Unfortunately, during this particular ride, I was sharing a car with The LOUD Family.  Everything the mom said seemed to be uttered for the benefit of not only her children but also everyone else seated in the car. We all had to listen to her take a vote from the kids on which museum to see.  Then we were all privy to an extended discussion concerning what was in each museum, a discussion conducted in those irritatingly didactic tones used by adults when they are trying to show onlookers what great parents they are.

I swear to you, I was ready to garrote myself with my 40-inch circulars only 15 minutes into this ordeal. And then, for some reason, one of the kids started asking for definitions of words, definitions that were then also given in the loud, fake teaching voice (my teeth are on edge, remembering it). "Daddy," the little tyke said (loudly), "what does 'courteous' mean?" "Well, honey," he said, his voice resonating throughout the car, "it means being considerate of other people."

Irony, folks - it doesn't get any better than that.

Funny - he doesn't LOOK like a mom...

So! LTYM was fun, although again it felt as though I was the only person who showed up alone.  I can't seem to get any of my IRL friends interested in this blogging/story-telling scene.  I sat there, with my knitting, and acted as though I were just waiting for someone to show up.  That's right - I "saved" the seat next to me.  It made me feel better.

After the show, in an unwonted fit of extroversion, I even tried to go hang out with the cast and audience at a nearby hotel bar; but, once I walked in there, I realized I had no idea how to order a drink in a crowded bar.  I mean, I just wanted to circulate with a Coke in my hand, but how did I get the glass of soda in the first place?  And how was I supposed to pay for it?  Was I supposed to elbow my way to the bar, where people were already sitting?  Was I supposed to sit at one of the tables and wait for someone to take my order?  WHERE WAS THE CASH REGISTER?

So I left.  I am such a loser sometimes. Really.

Old-fashioned GPS, I guess

Then it was time to find my childhood best friend, who happened to be flying into DC that very afternoon, for business.  Now, I probably haven't mentioned this, but this was the same friend with whom I flunked orienteering in 6th grade, because we couldn't count steps and use a compass to save our lives.  So here we both were in DC, equipped with GPS on our smartphones, STILL having trouble meeting up.  It was like a game of Marco Polo, only a lot hotter and more tiring.  We finally ended up on facing street corners, waving madly at each other as if we had trekked across Africa to accomplish this meeting.

I got my Coke at her hotel. It was less confusing there.

So, yup, a busy day, during which I am sure my poor abandoned children subsisted (happily) on potato chips and chocolate chip cookies and my overworked spouse enjoyed some peace and quiet, without me there to ask him just WHEN he was going to remove our cartop carrier from our tiny townhouse backyard.  Which is totally another story, but I've rambled on long enough here, you poor people.  I'm going to leave you now and try Googling for proper customer etiquette in a crowded upscale bar.  That way, I'll be all set for LTYM 2016.

[Metro image: Wikipedia]
[LTYM photo: Dad Or Alive]
[Compass image: CSP Forestry]

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Pay Dirt

Our local farmers' market has a new feature this year - it's collecting any compost-worthy items (fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, etc) to keep them from ending up in the landfill.  Happy to do our part, the girls and I purchased a little compost bin for the kitchen, the better to store our eggshells in.  Now, this particular bin is simply ADORABLE - seriously, it puts the cute into composting.  I told the saleswoman at The Container Store as much and she said, "Can I use that? I like it - the 'puts the cute into composting' thing."

I'm thinking I need an agent.

Anyhow, we also bought biodegradable little not-plastic bags (made out of potato starch, like latkes, I guess) to use in the bin, so we can take the compost out of the bin each day and store it in the freezer (just like the pioneers!) - that way the kitchen won't stink to high heaven by Friday.  Also, it won't attract bugs that way.

What did the pioneers do about the bugs, anyway?  You know, this is how I know there is no such thing as reincarnation - no way I could have lived in the 19th century, with no indoor plumbing and insects everywhere.

Hey! Is composting like reincarnation for leftovers?  Think about it.

Friday, May 01, 2015


Today the AC guy arrived for our annual check and maintenance thing (there is a slow freon leak, so he usually has to add some), but he ended up informing me that our unit is kaput and we need a new one.

So, yeah, Happy Spring!  Have I mentioned it will be in the 80's next week?

Smiling all the way to the bank

Anywhoo, the sales guy came by and quoted me about $6200 dollars for a new central AC unit (includes outside compressor and inside coil).  I'm used to being ripped off, but - even by my sucker standards - that sounds a tad high, doesn't it?  Add in the fact that our furnace is truly on its last legs, so we should replace both at once, and we are looking at, oh, $11,400 for climate control around here.  That's WITH the discount for having the work done all at one time.

So! Please tell me how much you've paid to replace AC and furnace units for your house and how long ago it was.  Granted, I live in an expensive area of the country, but your numbers still might give me an idea of just how far beyond reason this quote is.  Or maybe it isn't?

Fire away!