Tag Archives: House and Garden

Miscellaneous Stuff, I Guess.

Miscellaneous Stuff, I Guess.

I really wish I were better at long-term planning. A lot of the yard work I have to do could have been done in the fall or in Spring, instead of staring me in the face now shouting the accusation, “You have the sloppiest yard in the neighborhood! Everyone with nice yards hates what you’re doing to property values!!!” No matter how long I’ve worked at silencing the inner guilt-inspiring voices, some of them still come back to haunt me!

The fish pond is low on water, so it’s the perfect time to vacuum it out and cull some of the brown shubunkins and retrieve things that fell to the bottom before refilling it – and this should be done before the marginal plants die of thirst, too.

My duct tape double is mostly stuffed, and it wouldn’t take more than a few hours to finish it, secure all the tape ends, and make a cover so I can start sewing clothes for myself that fit right. I have a pile of t-shirts that are all ready to remake creatively, but since I haven’t had the time, I hit Target and restocked on new ones.

I’ll need to run the vacuum around the house before the Smart Carpet salesman comes tomorrow, too. We’re going with the least hassle option – carpet – because it’s the thing they’re least likely to mess up installing. They said that they wouldn’t charge for new installation, but we’d have to pay for an upgrade. The thought of these guys fouling up on the installation of an even more expensive floor was too much to bear. Nobody seems to want to tell us if we’ll get any kind of credit for a less expensive floor (since carpet is generally less than laminate) but if they say no, we’re going to get the best carpet and pad they’ve got. I’ve been researching, and I’d like to get PET or PTT polyester. They’re not as plush or long-wearing as nylon brands like Stainmaster, according to the experts. However, I’ve had Stainmaster, and not only was I not terribly impressed by how well it stood up to wear, I also had a terrible problem cleaning it. Yes, the stains come out, but so does the dye. One of the reasons it’s popular is the variety of colors it comes in, but because it’s easy to dye, it’s also easy for the dye to be sucked out. I can get almost any stain out eventually, but I’m not interested in making up a matching dye so it’s handy to re-color the stupid spots. The PET and PTT polyesters are also made from recycled plastics, so I like that, too. So we shall see tomorrow.

I’ve also really been wanting to finish up my polymer clay color samples and refine my clay/fabric decoupage technique, but the art studio has been acting like a garage lately. Not only do we have the stuff that needs to be kept until we sort it and arrange it logically after we finish the walls and wiring, but we had to put litter boxes in because of Spencer’s poor hygiene habits, and all the stuff from the living room/office and bedroom had to go somewhere while the floor guys were futzing around.

I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing, though. (Well, I do, but mostly after I’m tired from NOT sitting around doing nothing all day long!) Audrey and I rode to the bike store and got baskets put on our bikes, and rode to the supermarket for a two-bike-basket-size trip. I’ve been back and forth to the pool store trying to get the sludge out of the water (I love what happens when the water pipes get cleaned in this town!) I created more yard waste by trimming a big tree out front and pulling up the junk from underneath, and have been planting and moving things. I’ve been in the car to visit a friend for a day, take the kids to the dentist up north, take them to art classes in Red Bank at Colorest, then back to drop off the art I forgot to bring for the show, then up again for the show itself, to Monmouth Feed for pond supplies, doing laundry and hanging it to dry, teaching Audrey how to do applique on one of the items we picked up when we went thrift-store shopping. . .and I did clean up a lot in the garage so I could get to my clay (that took an entire day, in between hanging up laundry!)

I think that we’re going to haul one vanload of brush over to the recycling center, then I’ll take care of the fish, and then I’ll spend the day being an artist. I see a couple of cool showers in my future. . .

Smart Carpet on Notice. . .

Smart Carpet on Notice. . .

Not quite 10 months ago, I was so excited to have new floors. It was about January I started to notice the dark lines between the flooring panels. I went to a local floor place to see whether there was a product that would safely fill the gaps in my laminate floor, and was given more of an education in flooring than Smart Carpet had offered. Apparently, those gaps shouldn’t exist at all. Nor should I hear cracking noises as I walked across it. Plus, I should have been given a whole lot more paperwork with warranties and instructions, like at least more than the absolutely none at all that were provided by Smart Carpet.

The store owner suggested that I should contact Smart Carpet directly, since this was clearly not the way the floor was supposed to look or act, in his experience. So I did, and this has led to several months of appointments and visits and reports. We went from being told that this was normal when a floor was installed on concrete, that it would be fine again when the weather warmed up (Somehow warmth expels dirt from cracks?) to Smart Carpet saying it was a manufacturing defect, to the manufacturer saying it was an installation defect, and finally to Smart Carpet saying that they would come in, pull up the floor, clean up the edges, and reinstall the floor – correcting the gaps as they went.

I kind of knew something bad was coming when the replacement flooring was dropped off on Monday (to acclimate it to the environment in the house) and there were only 6 boxes and one small roll of underlayment. I knew for darn sure that there was too much wrong with the floor for this to be the solution, and sure enough, when the installers started working, I could see that I was supposed to be placated by a token gesture.

There was quite a bit of animated conversation going on in Portuguese. Nice way to make sure you can talk freely in front of the customer. They showed me how much tighter the joints were on the new planks, which was certainly not helpful because there weren’t enough of them. I pointed out that the edges on the new planks were jagged and still had gaps that would undoubtedly widen from friction as the floor was walked on. One of them left the house, made a call (in Portuguese) and then told me his supervisor would be calling. We waited for a while. He called again, then spoke to his partner, and they began reinstalling the old planks. I asked him what was going on, and he said his supervisor would call me in an hour. Then they left.

I wasn’t keeping track of the time, but the man who called me was not the one I knew as their supervisor. He had it all figured out.

I had ruined the floor myself by exposing it to moisture.


He cited the fact that a couple of spots were noted on one report as moisture damage. I told him that those were specific spots where I had told the various inspectors that I had spilled water, which was then immediately wiped up but still caused damage. He said that I had used a swiffer to clean the floor, so that must have done it. I asked him why, then, was the floor just as damaged in the areas that were covered with carpet and furniture? He just reiterated that I should have used an approved laminate cleaner, so I asked him how that would be applied? Well, a spray bottle, for spot cleaning only, with an approved solution, which I should then wipe up with a dry cloth. I asked him how this liquid would not get into the cracks, but wetjet laminate floor solution wouldn’t. I asked him why, if the salesman had told me this was an easy-care floor, I should be on my hands and knees with a spray bottle and a cloth to clean it. This went on – he continued to insist that I had damaged my entire floor, in two rooms, in a matter of months, by saturating it from above. Forget that the joints were gapped and uneven with no evidence of moisture damage, forget that the salesman said it would lock tight and could be washed with the swiffer, forget that the floor makes cracking noise when you walk on it, forget that you can see tiny chips on many of the edges of the laminate, forget that there’s glue gobs all over the transition pieces. Forget all that. The floor would have stayed pristine forever if only I’d never sprayed it down with the garden hose – I told him that in order for the floor to have the conditions he was describing, that’s what I would have had to do.

So now he has “tried” to get in contact with “someone” who can “address” this “problem”, but he’s “been in meetings all day.” That’s OK, I’m trying to get in contact with someone who can address the problem, too. Like, a lawyer. We’ll see who can address the problem faster.



OK, I’ve been really busy lately, not so interested in posting after I’m done with this – just reading and responding to other blogs, wouldn’t ya know. . . but I’m going to show you a couple of things I’ve been using that I think are marvelous.

I’ve been doing some sewing, but my sewing room is also for mending and such, so sometimes I end up not interested in sewing by the time I’ve made room for it. One of the time-consuming things is a few of hubby’s shirts. (BTW, when they tell you a high cotton count shirt is “wrinkle free”, they’re lying.) I don’t mind doing them, I put on the TV and zone out, but it just takes hours to do all of them – and I forget to iron until I have all of them. So when I got an e-mail from Atlanta Thread with a discount coupon, I splurged on a couple of things.


This is a Reliable Home Ironing Board. It’s heavy and sturdy, doesn’t rock around like your average board, AND it has a heating element and a fan that will blow upwards or downwards to help move steam and heat through the fabric. The foot pedal turns the fan on and controls the speed, and not only does it help in getting the wrinkles out (and not putting new ones in) but it also keeps things in place that might otherwise slip off the board. Only bad thing is that it’s way more powerful than my Iron now, so I might have to upgrade that, too. Heh.


I also got this massive sleeve/pants board. I can finally do the cuffs and the pleats above the cuffs. I do sleeves first, then the rest of the shirt, because the shirt gets kind of twisty while I’m ironing the sleeves.


Now, normally I’m not a big fan of Sylvania lightbulbs, but this one is great. It’s a full-spectrum halogen for sewing and crafting that fits in a regular fixture. Is it as good as an Ott Light? No, but it’s darn close and a heck of a lot cheaper. I have my Ott bulb on the right and this on the left, and I can see everything as I sew.

I haven’t spent all my time indoors, though. We had a lovely weekend, and I got started cleaning up. I prefer to take care of the leaves in the Spring. In Fall, they’re everywhere, and they keep dropping after you think they’re done (or blowing in from other places), and you always feel the pressure to drop everything and work if it’s nice, because it won’t stay nice out for long. The heck with that. Before Winter, all the leaves have blown off into piles, and I can bag the ones that might damage plants by staying there and leave the rest as protective mulch. In Spring, they get blown into even more compact piles, and each nice day will be followed by more nice days, so the pressure’s off. Since I started the Spring Leaf Cleanup this weekend, I became reacquainted with a couple of my favorite tools:


This is one of those rakes that can be made wider or narrower by sliding a rod attached to the tines. (It has a telescoping handle, too, so it takes up less storage space.) It’s great for getting under and in between and behind – less time crawling around on my knees to clean out tight spots! This is one of the cheap ones from Rite Aid or Cost Cutters or wherever I got it, and I’ve been using it for several years without trouble.


This was here when we moved in. We had no idea what it was, but for some reason, we didn’t throw it away. Now I’m glad we kept it:


We’ve tried all kinds of leaf bag holders – wire frames, boxes, tape holding them to fences, the daughters, but none of them has worked as well as this. I dump in rakefuls of stuff, I can smash it down to fit more, and nothing pierces the bag. When it’s full, I grab it by the little handle cutouts and slide it right out. Yowza! Oh, and I’m not being all irresponsible with these bags – the handles are tied in bows so I can take them to the town recycling center, untie and dump them, and then use them again. They’ll collect them at the curb, but it’s so stupid. They don’t want them in paper bags, which would speed up collection and would decompose in the giant town mulch pile, oh, no. They want them in plastic – and when they collect, the guys rip the bags open, dump the leaves in the truck, and leave the empty, torn plastic bags on the street. It’s a pain to take them in myself, but less so than cleaning up the mess the leaf pickup leaves behind.

So there you go. Merchandise that gets my seal of approval. Buy with confidence. Heh.

Hey, Maytag!

Hey, Maytag!

I don’t think anyone from Maytag is checking up on things here, but I know a lot of customers and potential customers are. So, everyone, here’s some Maytag dishwasher updates:

My mom’s Maytag, about five years old, bit the dust. So did my friend Gayle’s. Forgot how old her was, but not old enough to die like that. Mine? Well, besides the same old crap, the piece that runs along the back and over the top rack won’t stay put, because the ingenious clip that’s supposed to hold it won’t stay clipped. We’re hoping duct tape will hold for a while and not mess up the dishes too much. The bottom half of the upper wash arm broke off. The plastic clips got brittle and broke. We ordered the replacement part, but this won’t be going on too long. You’d think that the plastic they used for moving parts inside a dishwasher would be a kind that stood up to heat and movement, but I guess Maytag didn’t. We’re just keeping it going until we can afford to replace it.

Baking, Baking, Baking. . .

Baking, Baking, Baking. . .

I won’t go into details, but I can’t really leave the house today. Tomorrow was going to be a baking day, because we have a band concert and a marching band event coming up this week that I promised baked goods for (yes, I know that was bad sentence construction. . .). Well, since I’m going to have to put off ’til tomorrow what I can’t do today, I’m baking.

I’m almost done with the white chocolate chip macadamia cookies, and the regular chocolate chip cookies will follow. I was going to just bring those to both functions, but then it occurred to me. . .Saturday is a Saint Patrick’s Day dinner, and I have a killer Irish Soda Bread recipe!

I’ll have to make it either later tonight, or tomorrow depending on whether I can leave the house later, because two double batches of cookies have put a serious dent in my supply of flour, butter, and sugar. It’s OK, though. I can also pick up aluminum pans and bake several soda breads at once. Both cookies and breads freeze well, which is a good thing since I won’t be able to do anything Thursday, Friday, or Saturday morning.

Now, I just want to squeeze this one little thing in. . .I love baking in an electric oven. I never thought I’d feel that way, but after all the years of throwing burned things away when I had gas ovens, it’s wonderful to know that there’ll be almost no difference between the stuff baked on the top rack and the stuff baked on the bottom one. I think I’d still rather have a gas stove, but only for cooking, not cleaning. I have one of those ceramic cooktops, and I had to get all new pots and pans that would work with it. It’s more consistent than an electric coil, but it takes a long time to cool down. Ah, but cleaning it. . .whenever I get irritated about it being electric, I just try to remember having to disassemble a gas stove to clean it, and the hours it took to get all the gunk out because I was the first one to think about what might be under there. . .

You know what else I love? Cookie scoops. I have five or six different sizes, and I use them for cookies, muffins, cupcakes, even ravioli and samosa fillings. And my KitchenAid stand mixer, I’ve loved that for years, even when I have to hammer the hinge pin back in. And commercial bakeware that doesn’t have that stupid nonstick surface that sticks to the food but not the metal. Yeah, I need more of that stuff.

Bad Design!

Bad Design!

I haven’t felt much like blogging lately, at least not in the way that would let me compose a thoughtful or thought-provoking post. I’ll get it back in time, I’m sure. However, I was just inspired by a post over at IKEAFans about putting in a corner sink.

A corner sink is a bad idea. I’m speaking with the voice of experience. In our last house, the kitchen sink was in the corner. Seems like a good way to put an otherwise unused space to work, right? Well, there’s a geometry issue. In the small kitchen, using normal depth cabinets and counters, the corner sink doesn’t put this space to work, it just makes it harder to reach. When I wanted to clean the counter and wall behind this sink, I had to clear everything off the entire counter because I had to lie down on it and snake my way under the cabinets to reach. Inconvenient barely scratches the surface when describing this. In addition, in order for the door on the cabinet over the sink to be reachable, it had to be a deep cabinet. Again, geometry became an enemy, because the door to this deep, wide cabinet was about five inches wide.

This house, for all its flaws, is nowhere near as bad as that one, but the previous owners did a lot of work to make it pretty, and that’s where the problem lies. They moved and don’t have to deal with living with this stuff, but some of you might be considering remodeling or fixing up, and I feel compelled to tell you that it’s not all about pretty. So here are some things to consider that might make your life easier. Read the rest of this entry

Getting Organized!

Getting Organized!

My therapist and I had a very enlightening session the other day. I discovered how my disorganization was really impacting every single aspect of my life, and how my opposition to getting organized wasn’t any of the other things I’d self-diagnosed. Oh, dear. You know what, though, it brought the urgency of getting organized into very clear focus, and I’ve been going about it all the wrong way. I realize that I need spaces that are devoted to single functions, or related functions, and all the supplies and tools needed for that function have to be arranged in a way that makes sense, is easy to see without moving things around, and be easily accessible. I’ve been trying to create NEW areas like this, and in the process I’ve not only been delayed in creating these areas, but I’ve been turning other areas I can already use in this way into realms of chaos, with stuff that doesn’t belong in them “temporarily stored.”

So, step one was the laundry room. The laundry room also has the spare fridge and freezer, my computer, and the kitchen overflow that comes from shopping at Costco and having lots of cooking toys. This is ALSO where the paper, pens, pencils, extra folders, dividers, and so on – school supplies and stationery, dontchaknow – were kept.

“My room” (wouldn’t you know, I get my own room, and it has a washer and dryer in it. Heh) is used by everyone, and as such, was yet another collection of horizontal surfaces to dump stuff on. Plus, with all the things being stored in it that other people needed to get to, there was a lot of tripping over each other. So I’ve been busting my behind the last couple of days trying to straighten things up and put stuff in order in a sensible fashion. I still have another day or two of working out the last few details, but the improvement is incredible.

The freezer/fridge area has a shelf unit to the right, and is next to the direct route between the kitchen and garage (which will be an art studio, but let’s work on finishing one thing at a time. . .) Clearly, things that the rest of the family needs to be able to get should be there. So I put a shelf on top of the freezer that the electric griddle can slide under, because that doesn’t fit in the kitchen but gets used a lot, and on top of this is all the thermoses and insulated lunch bags (and a huge box of straws behind those. Don’t ask.) The giant pack of paper towels is on top of the fridge. On the very top of the shelf, up close to the ceiling, I put the picnic/partyware. Even when the weather’s nice, I don’t need those often enough for climbing a stepladder to be an inconvenience. The shelf below has the gadgets – bread machine, ice cream maker, tomato press, etc. On the shelf below that, I put the big tupperware – the stuff I use for things I’m taking to parties and such – behind the giant plastic wrap and spare packs of napkins. My tool bag is incongruous there, but it fits. On the easiest shelf, I put all the paper supplies on a vertical divider, put the small things like paperclips and rubber bands in a divided plastic box, and put that on top of a large basket that has all the tape, pens, pencils, glues, etc, with boxes holding things together (like all the colored pencils) and easy to see what you need and pull out if what you need is in the back. Under that, recycling (and I put the twine and scissors for newspapers in the basket for newspapers!), and under that, the cat and dog food. Now, what’s on the shelves next to my computer desk are the things I need, and nobody should have to be poking around my desk looking for stuff. Manuals are together. Software is together. Scrap paper and notebooks are together. Woohoo!

I’ve organized the cabinets above the computer – pet toys in a box, pet meds and grooming in another, treats under those. All the candles are in one place (I have a bazillion tea lights because I could never find the ones I’d bought before. I might never need to buy another tea light as long as I live.) Insect stuff is right by the door at the bottom, so you can spray yourself or grab some incense before you go outside.

The cabinets over the laundry have been started. I repurposed an IKEA box of drawers, and now all my batteries are together and arranged by size, and lightbulbs are separated by base. Oh, and I even labeled the drawers. Heh. I still need to get to the cleaning supplies, the shelves above the machines, and a few other out-of-place items, but it’s looking pretty darned good. Bit by bit, one room at a time. Once I’ve tamed the clutter and have a working system, it’ll be a lot easier to keep my head from exploding. Every time I want to do something creative, or even not-so-creative, the need to straighten up the work area and find all the supplies is completely daunting. Either I straighten up and get stuff together to start. . .then run out of steam so I don’t do what I wanted to do (and this creates another dumping ground for “miscellaneous”, which perpetuates the problem) or I just don’t even go anywhere near the area (so it gets even messier, since it is at that point an established dumping ground for “miscellaneous”.)

This is going to happen, and I really want to make it work. The less clutter there is in my space, the less clutter there is in my mind. And now, finally, I’m off to shower, dress, and have lunch, because I am a taxi service and band parent for the rest of the day.

Cool Color Image

Cool Color Image

Lisa at Polka Dot Creations is as fond of playing with colors as I am – maybe moreso. She has a series of posts on creating a color palette, with links to tools, and I figured I’d give it a shot.

Now, she spends a lot more time on flick’r than I do, so I didn’t already have a set of favorite images. Just so I could try making a color palette, I browsed a few garden and landscaping photo pools and randomly favorited a bunch that appealed to me. I used Big Huge Labs to make a mosaic, and then the palette generator that’s down the page a bit, and amazingly enough, it came up with a bunch of the colors I’ve been drawn to lately. Take a look:


How cool is that? Lisa has more links to tools on her site, but I’ve wasted enough time already playing around. Later on, I might gather up a few of my own pics and do the same thing to see how well the colors I picked in real life match the colors I picked at random. There has to be some deep psychological meaning behind peoples’ color choices, maybe I’ll look that up one day, too.

A Pond Video

A Pond Video

We had covered the pond with netting the night before, since the leaves are starting to fall. Carolyn called us out to see the frogs – apparently we hadn’t left them a space to get in under the netting. After we shot the video, we lifted the net up in a couple of spots.

Stuff in My Brain

Stuff in My Brain

Last night, we pulled up all the dropcloths, dabbed ceiling white on the spots that got speckled (damn popcorn ceilings!!!!) and put the living room furniture back in some semblance of order. Hubby hung the blinds back up. I need to go out and survey the potted plants. I fear that some of them were not terribly happy to take a vacation outdoors. I’ll bring the live ones indoors and find spots for them, clean out the pots of the recently deceased, and see what else needs attention. If I can find rugs, I’ll get them and put them down and put up pics later. Right now the living room looks kind of stark. However, it’s not covered with dusty plastic, blue tape, and newspaper, so it’s an improvement.

I have tons of laundry – some clean and ready to fold, some needing ironing, some still awaiting a trip through the washer. You’d think I never washed clothes around here.

Bits and pieces of furniture and decorative items are still scattered about in the wrong places. We have to decide what’s going to get moved back and what’s going to get moved elsewhere. Soooooo much crap! Some things I’ll freecycle. I think the oriental rugs will go in the classifieds, though. They weren’t cheap enough to give away to just anyone. The cedar chest will go. Outdoor light fixtures and some indoor lamps will go. Ugh. And now the art studio beckons. Gotta sand and prime and paint, then insulate, then cut and install moulding and paint that. . .but not today.

I have prescriptions to refill, and since I have to go to the ShopRite to fill them, I need to make up menus and shopping lists. My stomach is roiling from the morning fish oil capsule, and the last thing I want to think about is food. I’ll get on the treadmill, take a shower and get dressed, and think about it then.

Mornings are the hardest part of the day for me. I wake up, I never feel as if I’ve slept well, and my brain immediately kicks into high gear with the to-do list, and all the other wishful thoughts it can possibly cram in. At the same time, my attention span is short, so I’m both mentally and physically bopping from one thing to another. I can’t finish reading the paper. I’ll start to unload the dishwasher and then do something else. I know that when the Adderall kicks in I can breathe a sigh of relief because I’ll be able to relegate the extraneous thoughts back into storage and take a rational look around me and decide what needs to be done and in what order, and look at the chaos around me as just stuff instead of an entity intent on destroying me. It takes about an hour and a half, and it’s just kicking in now, gradually. I functioned, more or less, like this for all my life. Now that I know it can be better, though, I have a lot less tolerance for it.

Now, one thing I did manage to read today was a story about two brothers, ages 48 and 51, visiting relatives in Rutherford, NJ, from South Carolina. They were in the car together, and decided to go around the gates blocking train tracks. The engineer was going below the speed limit, had blown the horn multiple times as he approached the crossing, and the gates and warning lights were in working order. Needless to say, they’re both dead, but at least nobody on the train was injured because of their actions. So in the article about the accident, relatives are making comments about this “accident” and “why did this happen to them?” Well, gee. . .ya think? The train was close enough that the engineer saw them as they began to cross the tracks and applied the emergency brakes right away. It wasn’t an accident, it was stupidity. It didn’t “happen” to them, they did it to themselves. I have loads of sympathy for people who are accident victims, and I feel sorry for people who lose a loved one, regardless, but this is a pretty cut-and-dried case of people paying the price for doing something they should have known not to do. The article says 17 people have been killed on NJ Transit train tracks so far this year and mentions a pedestrian who was hit in Red Bank as another recent one. It doesn’t go into detail about which categories the deaths fall into, but I’d lay odds that there are only two categories – suicides, and people who drive around warning gates. Both types make me angry, because they’re completely preventable, and they leave train operators and crew with horrific images and undeserved guilt to contend with. Many of them end up leaving their jobs because of traumatic stress. Sorry, I just can’t feel bad for these two guys. They were old enough to know better. My sympathies go out to the two people operating the train.

Now the piss and vinegar is flowing! Woohoo! I’ll put on some medical show I recorded and hop on the treadmill and be able to accomplish at least a few things today. Oh, and it reminds me of one I was watching yesterday while folding laundry. Only paying half attention because I didn’t have my glasses on and couldn’t really see it, but one of the patients was a girl who went off the road in her car. The focus was on her love of dancing and how her injuries to her foot and legs might end ballet for her. Well, everything turned out OK, and some doctor or paramedic said that it would have been worse if she’d hit one of the trees head on instead of going between them. The dad, I think (again, no glasses, only half my attention) said “God must have been looking out for her and made her go between the trees.” Geez Louise. If God was watching out for her, he’d have made it so she didn’t have an accident. Yeah, God, the sadistic bastige, was watching her and decided he’d have a little fun and only nearly cripple her. Give her a little scare. C’mon, can’t you guys take a joke?

So anyway, off I go to try to make order out of chaos. I might be back later today, might not. If your weather looks as lovely as ours does, go out and enjoy it!