Category Archives: home

Royal Living

Last week I extolled calling a professional concerning my front porch.  The stucco guys weren’t the only professionals I called upon last week.

The story of my “privy” is a long one.  When I moved into my house 30 years ago, the lid on the bank had been previously broken in 2 places and glues back together….badly.   The glue had been liberally applied and the excess, which had yellowed, had not been wipe off.  It looked so awful that I always draped a towel or napkin over it.   A few years later, it got dropped and broken again, this time it couldn’t be put back together again.  Luckily YA, Child back then, found an exact replacement at Architectural Antiques downtown.

I had learned early on to changed out the tank ball; it needed to be done every year or so.  I also installed a new fill valve several years back.  So when the trip lever broke about a year ago, I figured it would be a quick fix.  Wrong.  I won’t go into the excruciating detail, suffice it to say, it went from bad to worse and we ended up having to jiggle as we flushed and then jiggling again after the ball dropped.  Sometimes twice.  I’ve probably spent 40 hours in the last year trying to adjust, replacing levers, replacing the ball.  Awful. 

I was pretty sure what the plumber would tell me, but when he showed me what was contributing to my issues and talked through the repairs, I knew that I had been right to expect the worse.  He came back two days later and voila – a new throne!  It uses less water, fills faster and does its job better.  I almost wish I had replaced it years ago.  YA is reserving judgement as it’s taller than the old one.

Toilet paper – over or under?

Before / After

The next step in the front porch drama has concluded.  I’m sure you remember the photos of tim and me from sandblasting last summer.  So so dirty. 

What I didn’t say at the time was that what we uncovered when we got rid of the 3-4 layers of paint was horrific.   Completely uneven, a few long gouges and all the holes from when the house had been insulated back in the `80s.  My vision of painting the weekend after the sandblasting and being done were shattered.  tim walked me through plastering process but as the weeks went on, I knew I wasn’t up to it.  3 years into this project, I just needed a professional.

I found The Stucco Guy through my hardware store.  He came out, looked it over, took a few photos and the next day sent me a quote.  I accepted but by this time it was too chilly to do stucco work so we made a date for this spring.

They came last Tuesday morning and spent most of the day prepping.  Then on Wednesday they did the base coat.  It was a little disheartening because it is dark gray on application and it made the front porch seem quite gloomy.  They assured me it would lighten up over night and they would do the final coat the next day. 

On Thursday, I purposely stayed upstairs in my home office; I was so worried how it would turn out and if I would like it.  When he texted me at 4:30 that they were done and cleaning up, I was almost afraid to go downstairs.  It’s so beautiful that when I stepped out onto the porch, I teared up a little.  Best news?  He didn’t increase the price he had estimated for me last fall.  Very reasonable for 3 days of work (for 2 of them) and such a fabulous result.

There is some work to be done yet, but it’s the kind of work that YA and I are qualified for (little sanding, little painting) and hopefully will be done within the next month.  Only 3+ years to remodel a small front porch.  Gotta love these old houses!

When was the last time you gave in and called a professional?

Old Tech

This past weekend was a “comfort tv” weekend.  After a LOT of hours gardening and then recuperating in my studio while it rained, I was all about watching some of my standard oldies but goodies.

WarGames.  Looking at the technology that was over the top when the movie came out, it’s a little laughable now.  Rotary phones.  Dot matrix printer.  Oh, and Matthew Broderick makes a call from a phone booth.  Except for the ones that they keep around in London for tourist photo ops and the one that Dr. Who uses, are there phone booths anywhere anymore?

Hopscotch.  Walter Matthau types up his anti-CIA memories on an old typewriter, which he drags with him through the movie.  It’s not even an automatic return typewriter.  Phone booths in this movie as well.  Also, all the information on agents and criminals in on paper in a file room: when Matthau shreds his personnel file, they don’t even have a photo of him any longer.

Romancing the Stone.  At least Kathleen Turner is typing on an automatic return typewriter.  There are a few calls from phone booths in this one as well which is interesting since most of the movie takes place in the Colombian jungle.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash.  Whoopi Goldberg works in a bank on a data terminal (not even actually a computer).  She doesn’t have a phone on her desk – although there is one for the whole department of workers that they are only allowed to use in an emergency.  This means she ends up in a phone booth down the street.  (Then she gets dragged in the phone booth all over Manhattan but that’ another segue.)

A few things are clear.  #1. Phone booths and typewriters were clearly a lot more prevalent 30 years ago than they are today.  A bit of research reveals that you can still buy a typewriter (Brother and Royal are the top manufacturers out there) but they’re not a cheap as you would think they would be.   #2. The plots of a lot of the movies I like would really have to be punched up if there weren’t phone booths and typewriters abounding.  #3. All my comfort movies are way too old.

Do you still have a typewriter?  Do you use it?

Reading Affairs

I got Chris’ newsletter yesterday; he asks for pictures of people reading his book at the beach (or anywhere else for that matter).  It got me thinking about my current reading state of affairs.  March and April were a little discombobulated around here — too much work for a few weeks, then the stinky weather, more than one home project in the works.

Not surprisingly, my reading has been a little discombobulated as well.  You all know that I am usually in the middle of a few books at once but the past several weeks have been off the charts.  Instead of working my way through whatever I started, I would just pick up something that I thought suited my mood.  This means that right now, I’m in the middle of nine books.

Walking the Old Road by Staci Drouillard.  This is a “history” of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Anishinaabe.  I want to like this book a lot more than I actually like it.  The author wanders all over and rambles with a lot of detail that is actually distracting from her topic.  Unfortunately I’m listening to it on CD and the author speaks v.e.r.y.  d.i.s.t.i.n.c.t.l.y and v.e.r.y s.l.o.w.l.y. so it’s taking much longer than if I had just plowed through the print.

Beautiful: the Life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Shearer.  Quite interesting.  Hedy Lamarr was incredibly intelligent and all we remember about her is how beautiful she was.  She was actually the co-inventor of a radio guidance system for the Navy.  Who knew?

Coyote vs Acme by Ian Frasier.  Re-reading this because we talked about the author a couple of weeks ago.  Funny.  Very funny.

Autumn Light by Iyer Pico.  This one keeps getting shuffled to the bottom of the pile. The writing is quite nice but it’s a memoir of a man helping his wife navigate the grief of losing her mother and whenever I start to pick it up I think “too sad”.

American Aristocracy by David Heymann.  I’m reading this because it’s a biography of Amy Powell (and her famous family).  She wrote the poem “Giver of Stars” which features in a JoJo Moyes story of the same name.  I’ve read the first half really quickly because I find I’m not all the interested in her family – just her.

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver.  I’m just in the beginning of this, so hard to give any kind of synopsis, but it’s Barbara Kingsolver, so I’m pretty sure I will end up liking it a lot.

My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen.  This is an alternate history re-write of Pygmalion.  It’s an intriguing idea but unfortunately the author is sticking way to closely to the original story, just with different characters, so it’s not feeling as fresh or original as it should.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick.  I picked this up because I just recently actually watched Blade Runner (I don’t know why I waited so long – but I did).  It had such an ambiguous ending that I thought I’d see what the book was like.  I’m only a couple of chapters in… I’m not a big Philip K Dick fan, but I think I’ll make it through.

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans by Agatha Christie.  Re-reading this because I saw recently that Hugh Laurie is producing and directing another version of Christie’s work.  This isn’t actually Christie’s best work by a long shot but I’m still enjoying it.

I have a couple of other books from the library on the bedstand and Chris’ book AND the Sherlock Holmes book I bought while at his signing last month.  Maybe now that work has let up and the weather is improving, I can stick with just three or four and get some of them finished!

What are you reading right now?

What’s In a Name?

I was a rep for a stamping company for many years…. you know, one of the home party companies.  Of course, for most of my tenure, I only did workshops in my home for my dedicated following.  I wasn’t really into “growing my business”; I just wanted have fun with my stamping friends and get the company discount.

I have stamps and accessories from many companies but even though I’m not selling any longer, I still get excited when the annual catalog comes out.  The first day to order is today.  One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that the colors of ink/paper in the catalog aren’t always QUITE the same in person as they are in the book.  You wouldn’t think I would be too fussy about my ink colors (especially if you could see how many I already have).  But when you have a lot, you don’t want duplication.  If I’m going to get another pink pad or green pad, it needs to be a different shade.  When I saw new colors called Polished Pink and Parakeet Party, I visited my rep (I signed up with her the day I resigned as a sales person) to see those colors in person.

Parakeet Party is a light but vibrant green but it occurs to me that the average person wouldn’t figure that out immediately.  And it made me think about some of the incredible names that stamp companies come up with for their colors.  Here are just a few… can you figure out what color they are by the name:

    • Coastal Cabana
    • Cadette
    • Alchemy
    • Mermaid

Of course a lot of them are more obvious:  Rich Razzleberry, Early Espresso, Bubblegum (just about ever company that does ink pads has one named this) and one of my favorites – Not Quite Navy.  I’m thinking that when they have meetings to talk about ink names, there must be alcohol involved!

What’s your favorite Crayola box?  8-pack?  24-pack?  64?  Living large with the Ultimate 152?  What about neons?  Or glitters?  Or confettis?

Losing Track

I am over-calendared.

Handmade on dresser in bedroom.  Daytimer on chest of drawers in bedroom.  Birthday calendar in studio.  Daily holiday calendar in studio.  Calendar on refrigerator.  Lighthouse for the Blind calendar in the breakfast room.  Calendar on my phone.  And two calendars at work (one on Outlook, one on Teams – these two are not by choice).   

Two weeks ago, I took a day off work to get the house picked up and cleaned a bit because my friend from Madison was coming for a weekend visit on April 8.   First houseguest since before pandemic.  On Wednesday I texted her about what kind of milk she likes so I could order the right thing from my milkman.  Then on Thursday, I texted her about what she wanted to do for dinner once she arrived.  This text she answered a little distractedly that we could work that out later.  Then on Friday, knowing that she was coming from Rochester (follow up medical stuff), at 5 p.m. I texted her to see if she had left for the Twin Cities yet.   About 2 minutes later the phone rang.  When I answered, she said “May 13.”   Took me just two seconds to scroll back to the very first text about her visit.  May 13. 

I’m still not sure how my brain translated May 13 into April 8.  All I can think is that I was looking forward to her visit so much that my gray matter shoved it up a month.   For someone who has 9 calendars, it’s a little embarrassing.

If you were stranded on a desert island, how would you keep track of time?  (Or would you?)

Cabin Fever

Yesterday was my first day back at work in two weeks, and I was curious how my coworkers spent their time during the blizzard. Half were ecstatic about the time off, loving the isolation and the enforced stay at home. The other half hated every minute of it, feeling trapped and anxious. I think that is called cabin fever.

There was a very funny article in the New Yorker April 11 by Ian Frazier about cabin fever and what it is like to go stir crazy. He used to live in a cabin in western Montana, and noted how socially awkward he became the longer he spent in isolation in the woods. He also noted that in 2018, a Russian scientist at a research station in Antarctica stabbed another Russian scientist because he kept giving away the ending of books. I am happy to report that none of my coworkers stabbed anyone, but of course they were only snowbound for three days.

Because of the way the snow blew in, there is a huge pile of snow on our roof on the front of the house, and the melting has caused enormous icicles to form right by our front door. You could stab someone with one of those, I suppose. It is a good thing that Husband and I both like being at home, and neither of us gives away the ending of books.

Have you ever had cabin fever? Who would you like to be snowbound with? Ever read much by Ian Frazier?

Missing Out

I am currently in Fargo, ND at a nice hotel. My home is 300 miles to the west. Since Tuesday, the residents of my town have been having a rip roaring blizzard, and I am missing it! For the first time since we moved to our town in 1988, my office has been closed for three days in a row due to the weather.

I love snow storms. I should preface that with the disclaimer that I love being in a snow storm while in my warm home with a full refrigerator. Friends are sending videos of their yards, their stock pens, their barns full of goats and leghorn chickens, and I am so jealous. We have been in a drought, and this moisture is welcome, but it is hard on the cows and their new calves. The header photo is of a friend’s cow on Wednesday during the storm. As she says, “the price we pay for moisture”. I should add my friend and her husband provide good protection for all their cows in various ways. I don’t know why this one was out in the open and looking so pathetic. Another friend just reported that her snow day was ruined by the discovery of a mouse in her house

My next task is to drive home on not such good roads. If I were at home, I would spend time staring out at the snow blowing by, gauge the depth of snow in the driveway, perhaps bake, and maybe take a nap. As it is, I will just bless the snowplow operators and keep both hands on the wheel.

What don’t you want to miss? What do you like to do during a snow storm? Any good storm stories?

All Wet

Sometimes I think I’m living in the Twilight Zone.  A few nights back, as I was sitting my room, I got a text from YA.   Getting a text from YA isn’t all the bizarre, although getting a text from her when she is in the next room strikes me as a bit on the weird side.

However, this was the text:

“Will you get some kitty treats and put them under the bathroom door?”

If you want to get my attention, that’s the way to do it.

Turns out she had decided that Nimue needed a bath and it was the point in the process in which Nimue was indicating that her patience had been worn out. In addition to trying to open the bathroom door from the inside, she wasn’t cooperating with the blow drying part of the evening.

As you can see from the picture above, kitty treats weren’t her highest priority right then.  She was not a happy wet kitty.

And it got worse from there because then there needed to be brushing.  Nimue can tolerate brushing on her head and her face and even down her back but she draws the line (and occasionally blood) if you get near her back haunches.  Those are strictly her territory.  I didn’t hear any actual howling or hissing, but I did hear some grumbling and growling.  Luckily all her bad humor was for YA and as soon as she escaped the bathroom torture chamber, she was very glad to sit on my lap and get petted and cosseted.

Are you a bath or shower person?  Or just a quick dunk under the hose?

April Farming?

Today’s post comes from Ben

Man, this weather. It’s probably normal for early April to be undecided about what it wants to do… it just doesn’t feel like it after last year’s early spring. And I think I say that every year.

But the turkey vultures have returned! And the Killdeer! And I’ve put the pot of chives out on the step. And just this morning, we heard Sandhill Cranes! (Aw, Steve…sure miss you. )

The other day, the day before it started raining, I got out in the fields with the tractor and loader and started pushing trees off the edges. Most of these down trees were from the December storms and since that was a South wind, these were on the North side of the fences. Meaning It was muddy there and the frost maybe wasn’t out, and it was kind of a mess. Only once did I scare myself thinking I probably shouldn’t have really gotten down in this muddy corner hillside, but I got out and it was all fine. Had three of the tractors running, which always feels good, pulled the seed wagon out, and hooked onto the soil finisher with the big tractor. Made me feel better that I was at least getting a start on things. Doesn’t take too long to get things greased up before getting into the fields.

Also, finally found the lid from the big garbage can that we keep salt and sand mix in. It blew off during that December storm and I figured it was gone for good. Nope, found it thirty feet away in some trees.  

When I left for work one day this week there was a car parked on the township road, just off the highway. I took a photo of it and told Kelly about it. Figured maybe it was someone walking, maybe it broke down, maybe it was a couple high school kids hooking up and left one car here. Didn’t think much of it. But 6 hours later when I came home, and it was STILL there I called the deputies. Turns out it had been stolen. No other details.

Not the first stolen car we’ve found. Thirty years ago there was the car on a field road, but the tires were gone and ignition was ripped out and the dealers lockbox was in the back seat.  We found it before the dealership reported it stolen.   

On the duck and chicken front, all is holding steady. One Phoenix chicken is broody so she’s in a nest box all day. Since I collect the eggs every day, she’s moving daily to sit on someone else’s eggs. And I haven’t had to give them any water the last few weeks (because there’s water everywhere!) But otherwise all is well for the moment. I’ll need to start cleaning up the pen I use for the baby chicks. They’ll be here before I know it.   

What was your biggest accomplishment or disappointment last week?