Category Archives: Stories

The Plumber

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

I finally broke down and called a plumber. It didn’t hurt my pride as much as I might have expected.

There were two things; The dripping sink in the mudroom and the kitchen faucet that had very low water pressure.

My ‘Vintage’ mudroom sink started dripping a few months ago and heck, I can change a washer. Except, when evidently, I can’t. I made it worse. A lot worse. Like it wouldn’t even shut off worse. I bought whole new valve bodies. Nope, didn’t help. But they came with replacement seats. Except this sink is so old I didn’t figure it even had replaceable seats. And even taking it apart 14 times and putting it back together didn’t help. So. I turned off the cold water to let it “Think about what it’s done” for a while. That didn’t appear to be helping. Then even the hot side started to drip. Because the mudroom is directly above the utility room and hot water heater, I get hot water real quick. I learned to rinse my toothbrush REALLY FAST.

And then the kitchen sink. It has had low water pressure for a few years. Like you’d put a pot under it to fill then “go do something else for 10 minutes” kinda slow. I know it wasn’t always that way. It’s one of those where you can pull the nozzle and hose out the end. I had cleaned the aerator multiple times, I had changed the Moen cartridge, I changed the supply lines, and I even tried snaking a wire up the hose. Nothing helped. Kelly thought the tub/shower diverter valve thingy wasn’t working well either, so we thought maybe it was the pressure coming from the well house. But I thought my bathroom pressure was OK. I checked the pressure in the water tank and turned up the regulator and water pressure and thought maybe it helped a tad? But really not much.

And that meant the only thing left was the shut off valves under the sink. And I bought some from Menards. And I left them sit on the counter for a few weeks. The plumbing elves didn’t show up. I really didn’t want to try putting them in. I used to do “plumbing” down in the barn. (Notice I used that word in quotes). Cutting threads on a piece of black pipe and spilling water in the barn is a whole lot different than messing up the kitchen sink.  I really didn’t want to try replacing those valves.

Hence, the plumber.

He started with the mudroom sink. Turns out the seats CAN be replaced! I thought it was too old for that but no, the plumber could do that!  Joy! He changed both and it doesn’t drip anymore!

Up to the kitchen sink. Turns out the valves I bought were the wrong ones. Whew! I’m already glad I didn’t start this project. He replaced the first valve, then pulled off the second and there’s all sorts of white gunk in the pipe. Hmmm, odd. Kinda looks like calcium but not sure what it is. Maybe it’s from a few years ago when the old water softener quit working. Using a hose and bucket we flush the lines out. He installs the valves, I turn the water back on, and we get a good burst and then back to nothing. Hmmm. OK, working his way up, he pulls out the Moen cartridge. Except getting the handle off first was a bit of an issue. I was right in there helping. “Helping”.  I sort of expected at some point he was going to add the “Homeowner ‘helps’ surcharge” but he was a nice guy and he let me hold the flashlight for him. I offered helpful advice for the times I’ve pulled the handle off. While telling him at the same time he was the professional and I wasn’t trying to tell him how to do his job. But I was really afraid he was going to break something! At one point I tentatively suggested if he broke it, he had to buy a new one. Thankfully it didn’t come to that.

He got the valve out, it looked clean so then he moved on to the hose and nozzle. Aha! The bottom end of the hose is plugged up with this same white crud that was in the pipe earlier! A few more tricks to get the hose apart and we took it out to the shed and used the air compressor to blow it clean. He hooked the hose back up but re-assembling the faucet handle was still an issue. He knew stuff I didn’t know, and he made the assembly a little easier.

Turned the water back on and WOWZER! WE HAVE WATER! It’s fun, for a few days we giggle every time we turn on the water. I would never have gotten this fixed on my own.

After he left, I found a can of pipe dope that he left behind. We had joked that I get to keep anything he left.

And he had put the handle back on sideways. But I knew how to fix that.

What do you avoid doing?

Got a favorite sink? Appliance?  

Where in the World is VS?

William and Kate say the kids are out of control.  Kurt and Goldie are fighting in public and have called off the wedding.  Mutant wasps have arrived in the country via Washington – the same as Covid-19.  Hillary has just six months to live.  Ted Cruz’s father linked to JFK assassination.

Where was I?

Sewing in Place

Last month I informed YA that she couldn’t go with me to Cub if she didn’t wear a mask.  At that point I had been making due with bandanas and hair binders, but that apparently offended her sense of style.  She eventually decided that my Hawaiian-designed bandana would be OK.

After we got home from the store she informed me that she was going to MAKE her own mask.  When she came into my studio to get the sewing machine, I was a little surprised, since I knew full well that she didn’t know how to use it.  As she got the machine onto her desk, I realized exactly how much she didn’t know when she called me to show her how to turn it on.  I was expecting to spend the next hour explaining everything to her, but she preferred YouTube to my homeschooling.   There were only a couple of times that she needed me to fix the bobbins and then the tension.  She used an old t-shirt for the mask material and then scavenged the elastic from a pair of old gym shorts.  Here is the result (which she did actually wear once):

But it turns out that she likes knowing how to use the sewing machine.  Since then she has repaired a pair of pants and she made a “doughnut” for Nimue so the kitty wouldn’t have to have a stiff plastic cone after the surgery.  Although the doughnut looks good, Nimue figured out how to get her head loose in about 15 seconds. Now there is talk about other sewing projects this summer!

Have you ever sewn anything for yourself?

Reading in Place

For years I’ve had way more library books checked out than even I can read before they are due; I spend way too much time (at least what most people think is way too much time) curating what I have checked out, what’s on hold, what’s in transit.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I have my 16-digit library card number memorized.  I never thought any of this would ever come in handy – looks like covid-19 is making me re-think this assumption.

By the end of last night, I am caught up.  I have read ALL the library books that I had checked out at the time the libraries closed up, plus a couple more that have arrived since my local library started allowing curbside pick-up.  I’m not in any danger of running out of things to read… plenty of online stuff and a good number of books that I’ve accumulated over the years but never read.  But it’s a nice feeling to be all caught up with the library.  I’m pretty sure that as soon as shelter-in-place is over, I’ll be back to my old habits!

Here are a few that I’ve read:

His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik).  5 stars.  Read this (again) for Blevins.  Bit of revisionist history of the era of the Napoleanic wars with dragons thrown into the mix.  First of the Temeraire series.

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls (Julie Schumacher)  5 stars.  This is the same author who wrote Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirements.  It’s a young-adult fiction but a good read and very well written.  Four girls thrown together over the summer to discuss their school required reading list.

Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan).  5 stars.  Bit of very fun fiction from the viewpoint of a female “dragonologist” at a time when women were supposed to be staying home and knitting.

Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie).  5 stars.  Read this again (read all of AC in high school) to refresh my memory on which of the two movies was the most loyal to the book.  Although I am normally irritated by mystery writers who don’t give you all the clues, since I already know who the murderers are in all her books, I was able to let it go and just enjoy her writing.  (And the 1972 movie was much closer to the book!)

The Crypt Thief (Mark Pryor).  4 stars.  Found this when I was looking up the video on the French cemetery that was discussed on the Trail in February.  Murder mystery involving the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

I know you’re worried that I’m going to review every book I’ve read in the last 2 months, but I’ll stop here (except to say no need to read Fooled by Randomness (Taleb) or Wreck the Halls (Graves).  Only 2 stars each.

What’s the latest book you’ve finished “in place”?

What If?

Photo credit:  Manfred Richter

One of the lawns along my walking route got an aerated overnight.  As we walked by, I was struck how all the little sod pellets looked like goose droppings, although more brown than greenish.

There aren’t all that many geese where I grew up (suburbs of St. Louis) so I could not have made this comparison until after I moved here.   If I hadn’t come to Minnesota, I probably wouldn’t know be a single parent.  I don’t know if I would have finished my college degree.  And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t know what hot dish is.

Imagine you are still living in the city of your birth.  Tell me how your life would be different.

 

Wind

It was 75 degrees here yesterday, a nice temperature except for the wind that blew all afternoon.  We have wind here. Today it blew steadily from the west all afternoon at 28 mph, with gusts up to 39.  We had dust storms in town. My office building is heated with steam heat, and it has not yet been shut off.  There is no air conditioning because the hot water still in the pipes. If I opened my west facing window to cool down, I was deafened by the sound of the wind blowing in and scattering all the papers on my desk. I have coworkers with asthma and allergies who suffer when these winds blow like this.  There is no containing the wind.

Tell stories or poems about the wind.

 

RIP Tomie dePaola

When I was working in the book industry (B. Dalton and then Software, Etc.), my employee discount was a blessing and a curse.  Nice to get a discount on books but dangerous to someone who didn’t have a lot of disposable income.  During those years, the books that often went home with me were children’s books, particularly those with lavish illustrations.

If you have/had kids in your life, you’ve probably seen some of Tomie dePaola’s work.  In addition to writing his own stories, he also did all his own illustrations as well as illustrating for many other authors.  Often his work depicted his vision of folk stories or legends, including stories of his most memorable character: Strega Nona.   The first of the Strega Nona stories is a bit like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Strega Nona leaves Big Anthony at her hut while she is out and he is determined to show the village folks how her magic pasta pot works.  As you can imagine, it doesn’t go well, but Strega Nona gets home just in time to avert disaster.

Tomie dePaola passed away this week, complications from surgery after a fall at his barn studio on his property in New Hampshire, where he had lived since 1973.  He was still working at the age of 85!  Over his career, he wrote and/or illustrated over 260 books and won just about every award there is for children’s literature, including a lifetime achievement award presented in 2011 by the Children’s Literature Legacy, a branch of the American Library Association.

I have quite a few Tomie dePaola books, from a signed copy of Strega Nona to volumes of nursery rhymes, poems and folktales to The Legend of Bluebonnet, The Legend of Poinsettia (one of my holiday favorites) and a stunning pop-up book, Giorgio’s Village.  As I’ve been cleaning out and cutting back, I have hit my bookshelves hard, but I haven’t had the heart to cull any of my Tomie dePaola.  I don’t know if I’ll have grandkids at any point, but I’d better hang on to them, just in case.

We’ll miss you Tomie.

Is there a children’s author or illustrator that you’re fond of?  Or that your kids or grandkids are fond of?