Archive for June, 2010

New Door, Tomorrow

We just got word that our new door is going to be installed tomorrow. I should rephrase that. Jim and his dad are going to be installing the door tomorrow…a fun pre-father’s day activity.

It's Windproof!

This door has been sitting in our garage since right before winter. Our nice quiet evening is officially interrupted with screw drivers exploring rotted wood, drills removing a disgustingly disintegrated screen door, and frantic measurements and a whole lot of other miscellaneous prep work. The 24 Ask This Old House episodes have officially been downloaded and DVD’d from the DVR and I think we’re ready to go. A sudden, quick project which we can hopefully close the door on. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. Stay tuned to see what the hell happens tomorrow!


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Taking care of a sick toddler is nothing like your memories of being a sick toddler. Yes, there are bowls of soup and plenty of cartoons but as the parent of a sick toddler your world is a crapload more chaotic than you may remember. It’s a lot.of.work. Despite the stress of yesterday (note: you CANNOT take your daughter to the hospital for SCREAMING that her side hurts, all of her clothes must be removed, she’s in complete and utter pain only if you then determine 45 minutes later the antidote is an episode of “Dora.”) Yes Saturday was a mess and the glass of chardonnay at the end of the night was more for medicinal assistance than the usual sensory pleasure but despite that, despite that, we kicked butt around the house.

Namely: the last coat of polyurethane  is on the trim. A contractor came to the house today to quote a price on painting the house (another day, another post) and upon me telling him that we just completed our trim yesterday he said, “Yeah, so what, you re-stained the original or something?” Um, no, I proudly exclaimed, we did this entirely ourselves. It’s a good feeling to impress a contractor (though he may have been buttering us up). So we finished the trim. Second, we decided after looking at some old pictures of our living room to refinish the old black TV cabinet we bought from Ricky & Ricky’s basement of modern furniture finds a few years ago for $50. It held toys in the playroom but we hustled it downstairs to the basement, slapped two coats of black shiny gloss paint on it, spray painted the door handles flat silver, and finished the feet with the spray and man, it looks great! It takes up close to 30% less space than the IKEA television cabinet and just feels, well, more us. So not bad for a day of nursing!  Picture coming after everything gets situated again.

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Duct Cleaning 101

So I sit here on the couch, mild headache, as two very nice guys walk me through the process of having our ducts cleaned. Our 1993 air-conditioner bit the dust two weeks ago and it’s been Tucson in here ever since. The cats are pissed off and meowing in the bedroom and it’s going to be a wild afternoon. I had imagined sitting on the patio reading T’s manuscript, relaxed at the time given to me on a 4-Seasons Heating & Air-Conditioning platter. Little did I expect bill discrepancies of $300, cats to herd, and litterboxes to navigate. It’s been a day. My head is pounding.

Regardless, we’re getting our ducts cleaned. This is something that I wanted to do for about 6 years now–ever since we moved in and learned that the previous renters of the house were not using an air filter in the furnace. Um, seriously? Gross, disgusting, miserable are suitable words to describe this. I half wonder if the dust mites, old pet dander, and other disgusting things living in these vents are contributing to not only our allergies in this house but our daughter’s eczema.

It’s Wednesday, AKA Date Night, and you know what my plan is? To sit and inhale the fresh air.

4 Seasons put in our new furnace two years ago and did a great job. So it only makes sense that we called them again. That, and I liked the name. It’s catchy and makes sense: 4 Seasons. 4 Seasons is also a great band. So let’s pay tribute there. Additionally, there is no charge for after-hours service calls because after-hours is non existent in a 24-hour company. So one can see the measure of thought put in to two of our most exorbitant purchases since owning a home: a furnace and its companion. I also didn’t realize and majorly took for granted the expense of owning air conditioning in the first place. I completely took it for granted that the harder I pushed the thermostat button southward, the cooler the house would be and that was that. It wasn’t until I saw the three-inch layer of ice on the coil that I realized 1) these things break and 2) these things need to be maintained.

Our new HVAC  unit is warrantied for seven years on the condition that we get it serviced every year. A service call is $70. Seven years at $70 is a lot (lot) cheaper than a new unit. It always makes me completely appreciate and realize the importance of having an emergency fund.

We started our own 2-person book club the other week. Our first book in the club actually took place on CD and we listened to it a few years ago, “The Millionaire Next Door.” This new book we’re reading now is called, “Your Total Money Make-Over.” Our plan is to eliminate all of our debt in the next two years. All of it. Including bringing our 30 year mortgage down to a 15 year plan. I’d go into more detail but maybe that’s another blog. But its principles tie directly into our house, our town, and living within our means. It’s so simple and we’re doing it, and I just kinda feel vindicated, just a teensie weensie little bit. We made it through last year, one of the hardest years in so many ways financially, relationship-wise, stress in every area of our life, with more money saved than ever. How can that be? There’s a lesson in there and we’re striving to figure it out and live our life now in that same manner so that we can live like no one else in the future. Cheers to that!

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Filling up 5 flower boxes each year is not only a daunting task, but expensive too! Each year it’s about $300 in soil, fertilizer, flats, and watering to have semi-presentable flower boxes. This year I was determined to not only save money but save time and energy. In years past, it was a painstaking experience to not only purchase the amount of annuals needed to fill up these flanks of containers but figure out what container went in what box, how to place the flowers, how to fertilize the flowers, and how to determine a watering schedule that would keep both me and the flowers thriving. It was exhausting!

I checked out some container gardening books from the library. It was fun to read about all different types of gardening strategies but the only useful nugget I gleaned was to use peat-moss in containers that you planned to move around a lot or plant up high due to the weightlessness of the peat. Duh. But gardening books are difficult–they either pander to your inabilities to distinguish a weed from a perennial or they use British English diction. It’s a lose-lose either way.

So I checked out, for the third year in a row, a great website called Gardeners Supply Center. This site overflows with products and it can be very overwhelming, hence my triplet futile attempts to buy some type of self-watering container or device. This year I was determined to figure it out.

I ended up getting two gallon-sized self-watering container conversion kits which allow you to purchase any old container and make it self-watering (how cool is that?!), two self-watering herb flower boxes, and a sheet of self-watering material that you place inside a regular-ol’ container and plant right on top of it. The mat holds water and slowly releases it directly into the plants’ root systems. Nifty in theory but after shelling out the cash I felt sick to my stomach with anxiety that these very-2010 products wouldn’t work.

Thank goodness for smart sisters because it dawned on me how my sister creates her beautiful, eye-catching, overflowing urns each year. I remember one year commenting to her on just how beautiful her urns were–the petunias always cascaded over the edges and just brimmed with flowers. She said it was easy because she just plunked two ready-made hanging baskets into her urns. Sorry to bust her secret but come on, that’s genius! Considering soil costs, fertilizer costs, and time spent picking out flats of individual flowers and planting them in the boxes this was an absolute steal. Our local grocery store Caputo’s had beautiful 12″ containers at $12.00 a pop so I bought four and called it a day. Kmart had a sale on 10″ containers for $9.00 so that, combined with a great price of ground cover from Menard’s the other weekend allowed me to quickly, efficiently, and cheaply fill not only my front flower boxes but my urns. I filled in the space between the two front-facing petunia containers with some left-over greens I bought at Menards like ivy so we’ll see if they fill out nicely.

Self-watering 2010 flowers

If I would have doubled-my-money I could have nicely filled everything with flowers just going gang-busters but I think that as the season goes on and I continue to fertilize while the containers continue to water I should be satisfied with their growth. Looking at these pictures I realized I could have stood a bit closer to the actual flowers, but I think this gets the point across without deriving too much green-thumb criticism.

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