Saturday, November 29, 2008

Making Up for Lost Time

Whereas yesterday I remained pretty much in a semi-vegetative state, today was a different story.

First thing this morning, after I had my coffee, read the paper, and taken my shower, I got to task to putting Ariana's clothing either in the storage bin or in the box to be packed.

After that, I packed a second box with our coats and a third box with my boots, shoes, and handbags.

The next project in line was to clear off a wall of shelves in the library. But because that was going to involve my having to wrestle with a heavy-duty clothes rack by bringing it downstairs, I was going to wait until after Father Stan called me to go over tomorrow's Advent Bible study presentation.

Sure enough, Father Stan was prompt in his call. We briefly went over the lesson plan, deciding that it would be better if we met at church early tomorrow morning in order to go over the lesson face-to-face.

After the call, Ariana asked if I would take her and Ritchie out to the diner for breakfast.

Sure. What not? The diner is a great place ~ cheap and good food.

After breakfast, I proceeded upstairs to wrestle with the clothes rack. Apparently, I had to separate the clothes rack into 2 pieces in order to get it downstairs.

Once it was downstairs, I placed on it all the clothes that I was planning to sell at our huge indoor yard sale.

With the wall shelves finally being cleared off, I cleaned the dust off them, and then proceeded placing the books of Neil's ginormous vintage fantasy, sci-fi, and action-adventure collection.

There must have easily been 600 books!

On the top shelf went his old Star Wars and other spacy model kits.

It was slow work. And the books were so dusty that the dust was tickling my sinuses and making me sneeze.

After that was done, I cleaned off another set of shelves and hauled 4 boxes of Neil's books from the workout room to place on those now-cleaned shelves. In addition to Neil's books, there were also some that were mine.

In addition, I brought out to the garbage bag pile in the dog yard 4 more garbage bags, a section of hardware cloth, an old toilet tank that I got from church, and a box of broken glass and crockery that was lying on the dog yard deck.

2 long textile tubes went out on the front porch to be taken out to the curb for the Monday morning garbage pick-up.

By now, I decided to call it a day.

For the coming week I will focus on my studio. There are lots that need to be tossed and packed in that room.

Turkey Day and Beyond

I must say, it's been a very fine Thanksgiving.

The day started early with me cooking in the morning. I made sweet potato salad from a recipe that I had chipped out of the paper, and my very own special kick-ass deviled eggs.

And I had the oyster mushrooms that I had prepared the day before.

The Rhode Island contingent arrived later than expected, thus delaying the festivities by one hour. But once everybody got here, we all made up for lost time.

This Thanksgiving was going to be different in that we were celebrating it at Carol's new condo instead of her house in Holly Woods.

With Neil being in Texas, the turkey-carving duties fell on Tony, who took the task to heart.

(I wish that I had been able to up-load pix of the festivities. Unfortunately the Internet server had other ideas, not allowing me to up-load images either on my laptop or my PC. Oh well.)

There certainly was no shortage of food.

Let the pig-out begin!

In addition to the required turkey, gravy, and stuffing, we had mashed potatoes, Leonard's sweet potato casserole, boiled onions, butternut squash, deviled eggs, oyster mushrooms, sweet potato salad, and decadent biscuits.

We also had 3 different desserts: Leonard's famous mincemeat pie, a delicious pumpkin pie that Roma and Tony brought from the Lahey Clinic, and a coffee cake that everyone said was very tasty. (I didn't have any of the coffee cake.)

Plus there were chocolates, truffles, and other goodies to knosh on.

I swear, I ate more food that one day than I must have all week!

After our most hearty feast, the party moved into the sitting area.

Michael and Ariana shared with each other their art work, which was very impressive.

Michael brought 3 of his homemade books/journals/sketch pads to show us. The workmanship on them was exquisite ~ far better than what you would find in any store.

We called Neil in Texas and passed the phone around so that each of us could have a turn to chat with him.

Normally, Roma and I would have gone for our traditional post-feast walk, talking Emi with us. But because we arrived late, it was already dark afer we finished pigging out.

There was an unspoken decision to stay inside and relax with the rest of the crew.

Roma, Carol, and I whipped out our handwork while we chatted in the living room area.

I was crocheting my scrumbles. Roma was working on her beaded Kumihimo necklace project. And Carol was knitting a purse that she was going to felt once she completed it.

As with all good things, the festivities came to an end.

Roma, Tony, and Michael had to leave, first stopping in Providence to drop off our mother.

Ariana had already left with Ryan long before the party broke up. So it was just me and Emi who were heading back home.

When I got home, I was so stuffed and bloated that I had absolutely no desire to go on-line that evening.

God! It was tough enough to finish one glass of wine.

The following day, I had all the best intentions to do some cleaning, culling, and packing. But I was still exhausted from gorging myself the day before. As such, I spent a good part of the day resting and reading.

I really could not believe that it would take a full day to cover from pigging out. And boy did I ever pig out!

Going on-line last night was out of the question. Not only was I exhausted, it also seemed as though the Internet server was down.

I guess Thanksgiving was even too much for the 'Net.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An American Folk Thanksgiving Tradition

I may not be blogging tomorrow, but I would like to leave everyone with a Thanksgiving favorite to enjoy.

Here's Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.

This You Tube video even contains clips from the Alice's Restaurant movie when Arlo Guthrie was still a young man in his hippy days glory.


And Happy Thanksgiving!

A Bit Mellow Today

Today I was not able to get much done.

In fact, I was feeling rather tired, and my arms felt as though the strength drained out of them.

(Gee! I hope it wasn't the mushrooms.)

I only had the strength to wash my bed linens, make the bed, and sort through Ariana's clothes into piles for her to decide their fate ~ go into storage, get packed, get tossed, or get sold.

After Ariana did that task, I simply did not have it in me to follow through and put her clothing either into storage or packed in a Texas-bound box.

Instead, I went on the laptop to play some Mah Jong.

But after awhile, I could not keep my eyes open.

I was far too beat to even make it up the stairs to my bed.

Instead, I curled up on the couch with the dogs, pulling the dog-scented blankets (which definitely need to be washed!) around me.

I even fell asleep and had a dream that I can no longer remember.

In about half an hour I was refreshed.

However, I think I will wait for another time before continuing with my task of storing or packing Ariana's clothes.

At this time of day, I have no more desire or inclination to do work.

And this time I better make sure that I get to bed at a decent time. After all, I need to get up early enough tomorrow morning to start cooking a dish or two to bring to Carol's condo for her much-anticipated Thanksgiving feast.

No Half-Shell Deal, But Still a Treasure to Behold

I happened to look out my kitchen window this morning, and spotted a clump of mushrooms on the dying rowan in the side yard.

The didn't look like
chicken mushrooms, but they looked intriguing nonetheless.

Grabbing a knife, I trudged out onto the dew-covered side yard and approached the tree in question.

Nope. Definitely not a chicken mushroom.

So I cut off a section of mushroom tree shelves, and brought them in for identification.

Because I had already packed away my field guides, I had to go on-line to for my fungus identification.

I was getting close to hitting jack pot when Ariana came downstairs and said that her large boa, "Bao," was wheezing badly.

Your snake, you make the vet appointment.


Come in at 10:15.

Yowzah! That only gave me enough time to take a shower and get dressed.

Sure enough, the serpent had pneumonia. (Yes, snakes get it, too. They do, after all, have lungs.) She was prescribed 0.5 ml of
Baytril, an antibiotic, to be administered once a day via injection.

(We've gone down this route before. Believe me, giving a snake an injection is the easiest thing ever.)

Anyhow, now that the ailing boa was brought home and no longer had to suffer the indignity of being stuffed in a pillow sack, it was back to the mystery mushroom identification thing.

Apparently, this particular mushroom was the prized gourmet oyster mushroom.

Wow! I struck it rich with a bit of fungal fortune!

The next step was to cook it up.

Using the recipe that I found on-line as a guideline, I commenced my culinary experiment.

I really had no choice but the modify the recipe. For one thing, the recipe called for 13 cups of oyster mushrooms. I just a had a bit over 4 cups.

Also, there were a few things that I did not have stocked in my cupboard, namely: 4 small chilies, fresh or dried dill weed, and White Oak Wine or sherry.

So I had to make do with what I had.

And after my concoction was done, I took only a small sample and then waited a fair amount of time ~ just to make sure that the mushrooms were something NOT other than oyster mushrooms.

So far so good.

It's been hours since my first bite.

No stomach cramps. No vomiting. No running to the toilet with diarrhea. And no hallucinations.

I was still alive.

As a matter of fact, the mushrooms were pretty tasty, though I think they would have been served better using a different recipe.

Ariana did not much care for them.

Now that I know where the oyster mushrooms grow, perhaps I will be blessed with more before the weather turns too cold.

And then, I will have to use a different recipe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Now That the Fun Is Over ~ Back to Work

Today's project was a bit of a low-keyed one.

I was planning on continuing what I had been working on yesterday ~ packing most of my clothes so that all that remained was a minimalist Spartan wardrobe.

About 1 1/2 hours into my work, I got a call from Ariana. Both her art classes got cancelled. Would I pick her up?

Seeing that Ariana was spared from having to do an all-day marathon school session, I mentioned that this would be a good time to get some cleaning done.

Shortly after we got home, Ryan and Ritchie returned from helping Carol set up the large table for the Thanksgiving feast.

I told the boys that I would like for them to work on the chill room, and that with the indoor rain shower this morning, they had their work cut out for them.

Both the boys and Ariana hopped to it. And before long, I saw full garbage bags gathering on the landing at the base of the stairs leading to the chill room.

Not only had the trio worked on the chill room, they also worked on Ariana's room.

What a massive improvement! With the mattress being replaced back on the day bed, I could once again see the floor. It's been so long that I forgot what it looked like.

Ariana said that she even cleaned under her bed.

"Did you find things that you forgot about?"

"Actually, yes."

However, what those things were, I had no idea, because Ariana did not divulge further information.

Meanwhile, I plodded through my task of packing and culling clothes.

After packing all that I could pack at the moment, I put a load in the laundry.

And with the clothes that I had in the bin, I sorted them into neat piles so that I could decide if there would be any more clothes that I would like to pack.

I was already doing the second, and what I thought was the final load of laundry, when Ariana came downstairs with an armload of clothes to be washed.

2 loads of laundry had now become 4.

All my clothes had been washed and sorted. But I think that I will wait for another time before making my final packing decision.

It was already early evening, and I wanted to get on the computer and start blogging so that Neil could have something to read when he got home from work.

After all, Neil is my Number One fan, and I did not want to disappoint him.

No Rainbow After the Flood, But Still a Better Day

After this morning's deluge, I drove Ariana to school.

We both could not believe the amount of water coming into the house. I told Ariana that when the boys finally wake up, the chill room will be the first room that I will have them clean. And they will have their job cut for them.

When I returned home, I made myself a cup of coffee and settled down to read the morning newspaper, which had finally dried out.

As I was nearly finished with my reading and clipping articles and cartoons to send to Neil, I heard my cell phone go off in the living room.

Well lo and behold! It was Neil's best friend, Jim, and he was coming over in half an hour!

Now I had thought that Jim had already left for his U.S. Government job in Singapore. But apparently he was still in the States. I was glad that I did not miss the opportunity to visit with him.

Shortly after Jim came over and settled in my nice and still-clean kitchen, I called Neil at work, saying, "There's someone here that you would like to talk to."

The 2 fellows had an amiable chat. And Jim was very happy to hear how well Neil was doing in Texas.

Jim and I visited for 1 1/2 hours.

Of course I did not get any work done during that time. But really, how important was work when you had a good friend ~ whom you hadn't seen in years ~ visiting?

I invited Jim to join us for Thanksgiving. But he politely declined, saying that his 2 daughters had already laid claim to them.

And what accomplished women those 2 daughters have become!

I remember when they were still little girls crawling under the tables of their aunt's wedding rehearsal dinner. Now one is a city assessor, and the other one is in charge of a couple of laboratories at MIT.

Their dad must be really proud of them!

It was sad to see Jim leave. I wish he could have spent longer time. After all, who knows when the next opportunity to visit with him will arise?

Godspeed and be safe, Jim!

Il Pleure Dans Ma Maison

For those of you who are not Francophiles, the title of this blog is taken from Il Pleure Dans Mon Couer, a poem by Paul Verlaine.

Whenever it rains, I recall the first four lines of this poem, maybe because they are the only lines of that poem that I remembered since my high school's Advance Placement French classes.

This morning, being quite a rainy morning, caused me to recall those same words, but in a slightly different manner, as used in the title of this blog.

You see, not only was it raining outside the house, it was also raining INSIDE the house.

As I put the dogs outside this morning, and having gone into the kitchen on my way to get the dog food, I heard this very loud and persistent "drip-drip-drip-drip-drip...."


One side of the wooden platform, upon which Neil's weight lifting set stood in the workout room, was soaking wet. A deluge of several drops was raining down from the beams above.


Grabbing basins and buckets, I ran into the workout room in effort to catch the drips from the ceiling.

If water was pouring from the workout ceiling, what was going on in the chill room above?

Going up there, I encountered an even far worse scenario. Water was pouring from the edge of the ceiling on the south side of the room. And there were many, many more areas where it was raining in the chill room.

Not only that, it was extremely difficult to reach those areas. Also, those areas presented a tight squeeze ~ a much tighter squeeze than that encountered in the workout room below.


I had to pull things away from the wall ~ a chair, a large mirror that was behind Ariana's very large bottle collection, and all sorts of chill room detritus.

Now I had to find vessels in order to catch all those drips.

I used a coffee pot, cigarette ash stained coffee cups, Tupperware bowls, baking dishes, a flower vase, a metal can, you name it.

With all the different vessels used to catch the drips, the indoor rain drops and drips created an interesting musical symphony.

The top of Neil's metal filing cabinet contained a lake. And everything in that lake was ruined.

I needed to place the baking pans ~ which had very shallow sides ~ up on the filing cabinet because there was not much space between the top of the cabinet and the edge of the sloping ceiling, from where all those drips were coming from.

There was even one drip that was going behind the filing cabinet. But, alas, there was nothing that was able to get into such a narrow spot in order to catch the drips. As such, I took Ariana's velour hoodie and stuffed it on top and behind the filing cabinet.

Speaking of wet clothes, some of Ryan's clothes, which he had stored up there, were saturated.

All while I was rushing to place water collectors underneath the drips, I was being mindful of the time. Pretty soon I had to wake up Ariana for school.

I didn't even have the chance to get dressed when I woke her up.

Ariana stepped out of her room and into the chill room. She stopped dead in her tracks.


My sentiments exactly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Moving Right Along

Today wasn't a flat-out bust-my-ass day like Saturday was. However it was a day where I accomplished a fair amount of work.

I started off this morning with preparing today's meal in a crock pot. I was making a tangy pork chop recipe that I had cut out from the paper. And we had invited Carol to come and join us for dinner.

Now that that kitchen had been cleaned out ~ and remained clean ~ I figured that we could have people over for dinner.

After starting the meal, I left for an appointment in New Bedford.

After my appointment, I stopped at Staples to buy some pens for Ariana and me and also to drop off 3 more used ink cartridges for recycling.

Staples has this program where you bring in spent ink cartridges for recycling, and the store gives you $3.00 in Staples Rewards for each cartridge you bring in.

However, you're only allowed a maximum of 3 cartridges as day. So I keep a shopping bag full of cartridges to drop off whenever I'm in the area.

Pretty soon I'll amass enough Staples Rewards bucks so that my next purchase will be already paid for.

Then I stopped at the bank to deposit the nice check that Neil sent me last week.

When I got home, it was time to get into my hiking boots and do some more work.

I swapped the indoor extension cord that I had plugged into the dogs' heated water bucket with a heavy-duty contractor's extension cord that I bought yesterday at Wal-Mart.

While I was in the basement, I brought out the 2 metal shelving units, 2 chairs, my old silk screen that my father made for me when I was still an art student at Rhode Island College, 2 silk screening squeegees, and a small work table.

I also brought up one of my concrete sculptures from ages gone by. But because it was heavy, I left it on the dog porch.

Once all that was done, I opened the rear door to the workout room so that I could start carrying out all the garbage bags that were sitting there.

Because Neil's weight bar was on the hooks on the power cage, I was not able to get the door opened all the way. So I managed to get the bar onto the safety bars of the power cage.

After that, I was able to open the door all the way.

However, once I did that, it became very obvious that the safety bars were not at the same height.

The anal-retentive part of me had a hard time dealing with that. But for the time being, my main focus was to get those garbage bags, and what other litter there was in the workout room, outside.

In addition, I grabbed a garbage bag and started filling it up with trash that was outside, by the rear of the house.

Apparently, some of Ariana's friends thought it was a good idea to pitch soiled diapers out the chill room door instead of using the waste basket that Ariana had provided in the chill room.

I must have collected at least a dozen frozen diapers, along with other litter that was tossed out the chill room door.

Also, I picked up the hacked-apart frame from an old office table, a old garden hose, and other large trash, and placed everything on the impressive pile of garbage bags by the dog yard fence.

Once the workout room was cleared out and the trash outside picked up, I brought in the cellar stuff (with the exception of the concrete sculpture) into the workout room.

Getting the rear door closed was much harder than last time, no matter how many times I swung the sledge hammer. The damn door would just not close no matter how many times I hit it.

I could see dents forming in the door, and also in the door jamb whenever I missed with the sledge hammer.

But finally, I did manage to get the door closed.


I hope that it'll be a long time before I have to open that door again.

Also, the anal-retentive part of me had to fix the uneven weight bar.

The bar was way too heavy for me to lift and place back on the hooks. But I was able to hold one end while I maneuvered the safety rod into its proper place.


Afterwards I discovered that once I got all the trash moved out of the workout room, I found Ariana's ex-boyfriend's EBT card lying on the floor, near the wall, by Neil's weight set.

So the bugger was right in insisting that his lost card was at the house after all.

After that, I brought in the 2 wooden stands and a long board from the front porch.

I clean them off and set them up in the alcove near my studio ~ after sweeping up the floor where the litter box was ~ so that I could put most of my plants on them.

And I even cleaned out 2 bins and their tops in case I would need them to store mine and Ariana's clothing.

With all that work done, I could finally take my boots off.

The next thing was to start working on getting the library ready to store some of the stuff that I was planning to sell at our up-coming indoor yard sale.

The main thing with that involved clearing off all the clothing that Ariana and I had on a wall of shelves.

I was going to pack the most of the clothing to get that out of the way.

So went to put together the boxes that Barbara, 'Miah's mother, brought me from her work place at Roger Williams Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

While putting the boxes together, I got the notion to pack up the jewelry chest that I had. Since I was going for the Spartan look, I decided that I did not need access to my jewelry.

Because the jewelry chest was tall, I had to put 2 boxes together.

Once I did that, I lined the bottom of the newly-created box unit with a thick crocheted afghan. And I wrapped and tied a blanket around the jewelry chest to keep the drawers and side doors from opening up.

I then lifted and carefully placed the jewelry chest into the box. And all around it, I placed Neil's clothing in order to pad that chest.

Mighty clever, if you ask me.

In order to maximize packing space, I decided to use clothing as the packing material instead of crumpling up lots of newspapers.

I filled the box with the jewelry chest and then sealed it.

Next, I started on another box.

The bottom of the box was lined with Neil's Craftsman fine pliers/wire-cutters and screw driver set, my police scanner, and Neil's books.

Then I took Ariana's teapot, Neil's Cheshire cat teapot, and Neil's Cheshire cat mug, wrapped them in Neil's clothing, and put them in the box, on top of the pillows that I placed on top of the other stuff.

Once that was done, I added more clothing to the box until that box was finally filled up and sealed.

I was on a roll.

I set up another box and went upstairs to bring down the clothing that I had in my closet.

God! That was a heavy bundle!

I laid down a few layers of clothing. Then I took the metal bird decorations that I had bought at T. J. Maxx (which I couldn't resist because they were so beautiful), laid them down on the clothing, and packed more clothing around them to cushion them.

That heavy bundle of clothes was still not enough to fill up that box. So I went upstairs and brought down more clothing from my other bedroom closet.

With that second box now filled up, I started on a 3rd box of clothing. I had to go into the coat closet in the library in order to fill up that box.

By the time that was done, it was 3:00 PM. It was time to call it quits as far as packing was concerned and start working on the rest of the food for dinner.

I cut up 4 avocados, half a shallot, one clove of garlic, and defrosted some lime juice to make guacamole. My guacamole recipe is simple. But it is oh SO good.

Then I chopped up some plum tomatoes, the other half of the shallot, and another clove of garlic, and threw them all in a bowl. I added some extra-virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Yum.

Afterwards, I made a bowl of couscous.

And finally, I juiced the clementines and the red grapes.

Meanwhile, Ryan had to bring Ritchie to the dentist. And Ariana was taking a shower.

Carol arrived while Ariana was still in the shower, bringing ice cream and a whole bunch of Thanksgiving paper napkins that she found.

When Ariana got out of the shower, I prepared for Carol and me an arugula salad with the chopped up plum tomato salad mix.

By then, Ryan had arrived.

We had the main meal.

It was not as great as I had hoped. The pork, while very tender, was rather bland. I think that may have had something to do w/the pork having been in the freezer for too long and having gotten freezer burn.

But it wasn't bad either. All it needed was a bit of Worcestershire sauce to liven it up.

Ryan then had to leave to get Ritchie. And Ariana went with him.

That left Carol and me to enjoy each other's company. I made her a cup of mango tea, while I enjoyed a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

We had a very pleasant and friendly visit.

I told Carol that we're going to have to have another dinner again, in another 4 weeks, when it will be Carol's birthday.

Maybe then I will make beef Burgundy. And maybe that recipe may have enough of a "wow" factor for me to copy it down in the "Family Favorites" cookbook.

Carol was really impressed with all the work that I have been doing, especially the dramatic transformation of the workout room.

Now I have to plot my next step.

I think I will continue with packing clothing. I will just leave myself about 2 or 3 week's worth of clothing. After all, I'm on a Spartan roll.

Among the jeans, tee shirts, and hoodies, I will save a pair of nice black pants and a few nice sweaters.

Still to come is culling through the stuff in my bedroom. That's going to be tough, especially since a lot of that stuff is art supplies.

While Ariana will be at school all day tomorrow, Ryan knows that he will have to be doing a lot of cleaning ~ that's after he comes back from lending Carol his muscles.

Gradually everything is shaping up.

I cannot wait to see what kind of progress I make by the end of the week.

I already warned the kids ~ Ariana in particular ~ that if I don't see any reasonable progress being made with cleaning, then I will have to step in myself.

And that's something that they would not want me to do. Because if I have to step in, I will be ruthless.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

All Blitzed Out

Whereas the last 2 days have been "chill" days for me, today I waged an all out and out blitz on the workout room.

For 7 to 8 hours straight ~ with the exception of a one-hour break to meet with the realtor ~ I burned through the workout room.

Honestly, I was expecting the cleaning project to take at least 2 or 3 days. So I was mightily surprised to discover that I cleaned out the whole bloody space (except for the space underneath the stairs) in just one day.

Yahoo and yippee!

I packed 20 boxes, 18 of which contained Neil's many engineering manuals. One large box contained Neil's juggling stuff, along with a whole bunch of miscellaneous crap belonging to the 3 of us.

Another box contained Neil's tools.

There were still more tools to pack way. But I had no way of knowing which tools to pack and which ones to sell.

All that was solved with a phone call to Neil. As we talked, I put certain tools aside to pack at another time.

With all that packing, I used up a lot of tape. I had gone through one roll of packing tape, and had nearly exhausted a second roll of tape. Needless to say, I had to put packing tape on the shopping list.

In addition to going through a lot of tape, I had also gone through a lot of garbage bags. I think I must have filled about 30 of them, though I won't know for sure until I count all the bags.

I already had to bring out 12 bags in order to make room for more bags.

The bags got brought out through the very rarely used door in the back of the workout room, right by Neil's weight set.

God! Was it ever hard to get the door open! I had to go around to the outside and body slam the door several times before it would budge.

Closing the sucker was even tougher. No amount of body slamming the door caused it to move in the slightest bit.

I was getting concerned because I could see a large sliver of the outside through the copious crack in the door.

My not being able to close the door raised a couple of concerns. First of all, there would be all that heat escaping through the crack in the door.

Second of all ~ and far more critical than the issue of heat loss ~ was the issue of security. If I couldn't close the door, then that would have made us vulnerable to unwelcome intrusion.

Fortunately, the solution to the conundrum was within sight.

There, not too far from the door was this mighty sledge hammer. And a couple of good whacks to the bottom of the door did the trick.

Boy! Do I love it when a tool does the job well!

That was my first time ever wielding a sledge hammer. It felt damn good.

That sledge hammer is my new best friend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ryan Said . . .

. . . that it's weird not having Neil in the house, that he misses seeing him around.

I can agree with Ryan.

Neil has been in Texas for a bit over a month, and there are still times when I expect to see him come down the stairs or hear him cough upstairs.

This is not like Neil being away from home by staying at the hospital. At least with a hospital stay we could still see him. And more importantly, he would come back home.

But Neil is not coming back again.

Texas is now his home.

Hopefully we won't have to wait too long before we can gather up the resources to relocate to Texas so that we could join Neil and once again be together.

A Mixed Bag of Activities

I never did get around to starting on the workout room. I kind of knew that it wouldn't happen for the simple fact that I had to bring Ariana for her 11:00 AM appointment.

You see, for a major project like that, I needed to start early in the morning so that I could get a good head of steam that would keep me going for the rest of the day ~ like when I cleaned the kitchen yesterday.

However, this was still a productive day.

The day started out with my letting the dogs out and having to break through 1/2 an inch of ice in the water bucket, which was supposed to self-heating in cold weather in order to avoid ice formation. (It's one of the best ever things I bought for the dogs.)

Seeing the ice reminded me that I needed to turn on the heat trace wire that wrapped around the pipes under the kitchen. But the thing was, I didn't know where the switch for the wire was.

So I had to call Neil. Luckily he was still home, just getting ready to leave for work, when I called.

And while talking with Neil, I discovered why I could not find a switch for the heat trace wire. That was because there was none. Instead, there was a plug, coming up from the coal bin, that I had to plug in.

Thank you, Neil.

After reading the paper and cutting out articles to send to Neil, I paid bills (yuck) and wrote out "change of address" notices to send to Neil's professional journals before leaving for Ariana's appointment.

After the appointment, I completed the "change of address" task, made myself a lamb, arugula, and bleu cheese sandwich (very yummy), and read a bit of Shōgun.

When that was all done, it was time to get down to business.

Today's project was to put the hay into the dog houses and to remove the garbage bags from the basement and schlep them over to the growing trash pile in the dog yard.

All this was to be done through the bulkhead, where the doors had rotted so much that they were now irregular-shaped pieces of plywood sheeting resting a wooden framework.

The doors were no longer attached to the hinges. And when I went to open them, they broke even more because the base of the doors had decomposed due to its having been covered with a thick layer of soil and dried vegetation for God knows how long.

(And these weren't the first set of bulkhead doors to rot away. I don't even remember the number of times we had to replace those doors.)

After getting the 2 former doors opened, I noticed that the extension cord that was connected to the heated dog water bucket was severed in two. No wonder why I had to break through all that ice in the bucket this morning.

And here both Neil and I thought that the bucket had finally kicked the bucket. Instead, it was a faulty extension cord issue.

So now I had to find another extension cord.

I had a couple of extension cords in what used to be Neil's room (which is now Ryan's room). But I could not find them because Ryan and Ritchie had moved things around, and they weren't home for me to ask where the extension cords were hiding.

Fortunately, I was able to find one in the garage. (I just hope that it's one that's safe to use outside.)

With the extension cord issue resolved, I went down into the basement to begin my work.

Pixel was there. He had gotten in through a hole in the window that no longer had any glass and was blocked with a bale of hay to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.

Seeing that a new hole had opened up in the corner of the window space, I plugged it up with more hay ~ hoping this time the cats won't dig out another hole.

Next, I took the hay out of the cellar and placed it in the dog houses. I even placed some hay under the porch, because that's where Emi likes to go for shelter.

After that came the gargantuan task of moving all those garbage bags and all that trash out of the cellar.

I lost count of the number of times I had to go up and down those steps. The top step was the tallest ~ easily one foot or more.

Some of the bags were heavy. Eventually I had to catch my breath after doing all that hauling.

The cellar pile was getting smaller. But it wasn't going down fast enough. How I wish the boys were home so that I could have borrowed their muscle to haul those bags.

But they were nowhere to be seen, and I had to do the whole task by myself.

Once that was done, I repositioned the rotted bulkhead door panels, having the bucket extension cord go through a hole in between the panels.

After doing all that heavy work, I certainly was not going to start on the workout room. I was going to take the rest of the day easy.

But then I looked at my watch and saw that it was not even 2:00 PM. It was still too early in the day to call it quits.

I was going to do some crocheting when I remembered that I had all those limes, lemons, and ginger root in the refrigerator. Better do something with them before they go bad and become no longer useful.

So the next hour or two were spent doing KP.

I zested and juiced all the lemons and limes, and put everything in freezer bags to store in the ~ where else? ~ freezer. (A wonderful suggestion from my friend Ruth in Australia.)

I also juiced the ginger root, putting the juice in one bag and the pulp in another.

While it took a long time to zest the bag of limes (especially since they were tiny key limes and there were a lot of them), it was a much more pleasant task than hauling heavy trash bags from the cellar to the dog yard.

For one thing, the kitchen was filled with the delightful and bracing scent of fresh lime.

Before bagging the juices, I poured a little bit of lime juice and ginger juice into a glass bottle. I was going to make ginger limeade.

However, that plan quickly changed.

I realized that while I still had the juicer assembled and ready for business, that I should juice up those 6 small apples that had been sitting in the kitchen for ages.

Then, just for the hell of it, I threw in a prickly pear. Oooh! What a pretty color that made.

After that, I poured the apple and prickly pear juice into the bottle that held the lime and ginger juice.

And you know what? It tasted pretty good. It was a bit on the tart side. But that was OK. I liked the tart flavor.

Once all the juicing was all done, I disassembled and cleaned the juicer.

Now I could finally relax.

So I whipped out my crochet stuff and went to work on a scrumble that I started last Friday.

However, because the sun had now whipped around to the other side of the kitchen, the room was no longer bright with sun light. I had to put on the light.

I was scrumbling along, and before you knew it, it was getting close to dinner time.

Ritchie offered to make dinner ~ a pasta Alfredo dish along with the left over lamb that I made on Sunday.

All 4 of us ate in the now ~ and STILL ~ clean kitchen.

It was nice eating together at the table. And when we get to Texas, I am going to make sure that the kitchen table always stays clean so that we can all eat together as a family.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kitchen Bound

Today, the entire day had been spent in the kitchen.

I was waiting for the stove repair guy to show up. So I figured that I would place myself in the kitchen, where I could easily spot him when he arrived.

And while I was at it, I may as well go on a cleaning blitz.

The blitz took me to places farther than I imagined. All I was expecting to do was clean the counters, the kitchen table, and the little bookcase on wheels.

I wasn't expecting to clean the refrigerator ~ top, bottom, and sides. I even cleaned the door gasket with a toothbrush.

The fridge was a filthy mess. And on top of the refrigerator, I discovered another one of Attila's litter box alternatives. Was I really surprised?

Everything was removed from the top and sides of the fridge:

  • accumulated recipe cut-outs
  • old insurance papers
  • Ariana's old school stuff
  • the strawberry pot that held paid bills
  • a towel
  • forgotten dog treats
  • cups and bowls
  • bread, hot dog rolls, and taco shells
  • a binder containing animal care instructions from when I went to Arizona last year
  • a small copper coffee pot with heavy cat urine-catalyzed oxidation on the bottom
  • an old Toyota owner's manual case
  • magnets
  • pictures
  • my liturgical schedule
  • Ariana's snake plate that I kept on top so that Neil would not have to look at it
  • Tupperware containers that I forgot about

Anyhow, you get the idea.

I guess it's been a long while since I last checked what was on top of the refrigerator.

After the fridge was thoroughly cleaned, I edited through the stuff that was both on top and on the sides.

A lot of papers got tossed, so did a lot of magnets and Tupperware containers.

When I was finally done cleaning the outside of the fridge, the things that I did not toss out got very neatly replaced.

In addition to not expecting to clean the outside of the refrigerator, I was not expecting to clean half of the kitchen cabinets, the soffit above the cabinets, the floor underneath the cabinets and around the stove and fridge, and even the slats of the pantry door.

I did all that along with cleaning the counters, kitchen table, and the little bookcase on wheels.

I even packed a box of deconstructed sweater remnants and another box containing important papers and last year's bills.

The strawberry pot, which was over-stuffed with paid bills, got emptied into a plastic storage container.

Both the juicer and the dish drainer were scrubbed clean of this past summer's mildew.

The bay window seat (where I have the cat bed) was tidied up and the cat bedding replaced with clean bedding.

The floor was swept up.

Lots of stuff was thrown out.

Partway through this entire production, 'Miah showed up with the leaf blower.

Shortly after he left, the stove guy showed up.

I showed him the problems with the stove. And after checking out the stove and looking up the price of parts and labor, he asked me, "How much do you love this stove?"

Apparently, it was going to cost nearly $800.00 to get the stove fixed because it needed a new electrical harness.


The fellow advised getting a new stove instead, saying that with a 20-year-old stove, paying that much for repairs would be throwing good money after bad.

While the stove guy was there, I called Neil at work and discussed the matter with him. Neil suggested that I go on-line and look up new stoves and see which one we should get.

But you know, after getting off the phone with Neil and after the service technician left, I thought to myself, "Why even buy a new stove ~ spending $1400.00 ~ if I may not be around all that long to enjoy it?"

The stove still works, even with one blown burner. And according to the stove repair guy, as long as I keep the burned-out element out of the stove, the stove should be safe to operate.

So I guess I shouldn't have to worry about the house burning down.

After the stove guy left, I went back to my kitchen cleaning blitz.

I must say, the kitchen looks so much better now. How wonderful it is to see the top of the table again.

The knife block and the kitchen utensils are now on the counter by the stove. And what a big difference it makes to have my cooking tools on the same counter where I do most of the food preparation. I should have done that years ago.

Now that the kitchen has been cleaned out, I can take up Ryan and Ritchie on their offer to help me clean. What the kitchen needs now is a major de-griming so that it could be sparkling clean when prospective buyer come passing through.

But even without the major de-griming, the kitchen looks good now. 'Miah, Ryan, and Ricthie were all praising the result of my efforts.

And when Ariana comes home from having spent the entire day at school, she will be surprised by what she sees.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Headstrong Houdini Hound Hampered

That Gomez!

No other dog in this house is as hell-bent on escaping as Gomez. No sooner do I find and plug up his current escape route, he is quickly at work creating another one.

Gomez cannot be in the yard for even 2 minutes before he makes his way out to happily explore whatever sights, sounds, and scents ~ especially scents ~ lie beyond the confines of the most generously sized dog yard.

It would not have been so bad if Gomez stuck to our back field or even perhaps had gone through the woods to explore the bog beyond. But the pooch also likes to check out the action on Route 6.

A couple of weekends ago, while I was at church, Ariana said that a white truck appeared in the driveway with a gleeful Gomez in the front seat. The driver of the truck, one of the town's animal control officers, said that he found Gomez way up on Route 6.

Just this morning, after putting the dogs out for their bathroom duty, I went outside to place Neil's package in the mail box and collect the recycling bins and morning newspaper.

I had barely made it to the recycling containers when I heard that familiar jingle of dog tags. Sure enough, there he was, gaily trotting without a care in the world.

I used to think that Gomez would not even think of escaping just before feeding time. However, this was the second time that he didn't bother to wait for breakfast in order to go off exploring on his own.

Finally, I decided that something had to be done. After all the Sears service technician was due here tomorrow to fix the stove. I didn't want to take the chance of Gomez escaping when I put the dogs out and while the fellow was working inside.

Also, once this house gets put on the market and potential buyers start tramping through the house, Gomez is going to have to be spending a lot more time outside.

This time I wasn't going to bother with trying to find and plug up his escape hole. After all, he was just going to find another way out.

Also, I really was in no mood to be hauling heavy rocks and logs to the other side of the fence while navigating the many craters and land mines in the dog yard.

(Somehow, the breaches need to be sealed from the opposite side of the fence. Otherwise, Gomez manages to find ways around them.)

This time I was going to do something different. I was going to do what Neil did with our first dog, Draco, when we still did not have a fence.

I was going to create a trolley dog run by running a cable from the back door to the cherry tree some 60 or 70 feet from the door.

So, after going to the lawyer's to sign some paperwork, I went to Mahoney's hardware store to get 100 feet of aircraft cable, a turn-buckle, a swivel clip with an eye at the opposite end, a 1/2-inch pulley, and 5 cable fasteners.

That should do it.

However, no sooner had I walked out the door, I realized that Neil took his tools with him to Texas, and I did not have anything to cut the cable with. Thank God I made that discovery before I reached my car instead of having gone all the way home.

So, I immediately went back in, and had the fellow at the store find me the appropriate cutting tool.

Now I was all set for business.

Setting up the dog trolley, while a simple project, was not the easiest task.

I did not have the proper tool to tighten the screws on the cable fasteners. The best tool for the job would have been a spanner. But all I had was a Leatherman tool.

And it was an agonizingly slow process using the pliers on my Leatherman. Not only that, it was tiring working with my arms way over my head.

Getting the cable through the eye of the pulley was no easy task either because the hole was tight and tiny. I had to shave some of the protective coating off the cable and then use the pliers to grip the end and slowly work the cable through the eye.

The most difficult part was getting the tension on the cable before putting on the fastener. For this part of the operation, I decided to use a step ladder because I needed to be more level with the fastener in order to maintain better control of the tension as I clamped on the fastener.

With that done, all I had to do was close up the turn-buckle.

Now I was ready for the final set of the operation ~ attaching the swivel clip. But before doing that, I went to check the length of the lead cable, making sure that it was not going to be too long.

In fact, it was just the right length. (I inwardly gloated over my correctly estimating the amount of cable I needed.)

But as I started pulling the lead cable, I noticed something very wrong. The pulley was not moving.

The pulley would only move if my hand was holding the cable directly underneath it. Otherwise, it would remain stuck on the line.


I couldn't believe it!

It was bad enough that I would have to go back to the store to exchange that 1/2-inch pulley for a 3/4-inch one. What was going to be an even bigger bitch was to disassemble the trolley and reassemble it once I replaced the small pulley with a larger one.

The 3/4-inch pulley worked beautifully. And I was all set to step down from the ladder and attach the clip when I noticed it. The damn turn-buckle was closed when I reattached the cable.


That meant having to once more take apart that infernal contraption so that I could open up the turn-buckle.

Once that was done, I looped the end of the cable through the turn-buckle's eye, pulled the cable as hard as I could to create tension, and then tightly gripped the cable in my teeth as I struggled to maintain tension while attaching the fastener.

That wasn't the easiest thing to do. I pretty much had to thread the tiny bolts onto the small ends by feel because the fastener was too close to my face in order for me to be able to properly focus my eyes on it.

The fastener popped off before I could get the damn thing screwed together. The bottom piece went flying. Fortunately it landed on the porch where I could easily see and retrieve it.

However, that meant climbing down the step ladder, making sure that I held onto to cable w/my hand, lest that slip and I would have to go chasing after it.

By now, I was getting a lot of practice at maintaining cable tension while attaching cable fasteners. I finally got the fastener on good and tight. And then I closed up the turn-buckle so that I had a nice, taut line.

The last step was to attach the swivel clip to the end of the lead cable.

For that, I was going to make sure that I was going to be warm and comfortable. So I brought inside the cable, made myself comfortable on the couch, and completed the operation by attaching the swivel clip to the end of the cable.

Mission accomplished!

Now I can have peace of mind when Gomez goes out.

Looking back at my handiwork, I can say that I am quite pleased with myself. Not only did I have the ability to plan and execute such a project, but I also did it all by myself with no help from anyone.

Knowing that I am capable of performing tasks outside my realm of experience is a great feeling.

I guess I can say that I am proud of myself and can give myself a nice pat on the back.

Now get me some power tools!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Amish 'Miah

While writing my last blog, I had a couple of unexpected visitors ~ 'Miah and his mother Barbara.

I was amused by the get-up 'Miah wore.

Both his mother and I agreed that he looked like he was Amish. All that was missing was the beard.

Peg-Leg Peg and the Tex-Mex Nightmare

While we're on the subject of dining out, I would like to share an unusual experience that my dear ol' pal Julian and I had several years ago at Luana's Mexican Hat in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Jules and I were in the mood for some Mexican food, and upon the recommendation of his co-worker, we decided to try Luana's Mexican Hat.

We had no idea what we were in for.

The burned-out letters on the neon sigh should have been a dead give-away. But being the hungry and intrepid diners, we forged on.

However, forging on wasn't as easy a venture as we had predicted.

First of all, we had difficulty finding the entrance. There was nothing to indicate a main entry way.

Also, it looked dark inside. We wondered if the place was even open. But like I said earlier, we were hungry and intrepid diners. We came this far. And our tummies and taste buds were all set for Mexican food.

Finally, we saw what could have been light inside. And after trying one nondescript door, we discovered the main entrance.

The entrance led to a foyer that had a bar off to the side. We saw the hostess station, but no hostess.

Finally the hostess showed up ~ a much older woman who walked slowly and with a very pronounced limp.

I whispered to Julian that the hostess must have had a peg leg. My pal begged to differ, believing instead that she had a "corn cob shoved up her ass."

Peg-Leg Peg slowly led us to a table in a darkened room and handed us ancient menus that had the old prices crossed out with new ones written in pen. Guess the owners of restaurant were too cheap to print up new menus.

It was so dark where we sat that we had trouble reading the menu. We had to hold our menus close to the candle on the table in order to be able to make out the words.

Already we were not being amused. And the fact that we had a noisy table next to us did not add to our dining enjoyment. As a sizzling dish was being brought to the table one woman shrieked out loud, "It's making noise." Great. Not only did we have noisy neighbors, we also had noisy food.

The noise and the poor lighting were not the only things that made the room uncomfortable. It was also freezing cold. I spotted a thermostat on the wall behind me, and I brazenly turned up the temperature.

Shortly afterwards, I heard a couple from another table complain about the cold in the restaurant. So I felt justified in turning up the heat.

Julian and I made our dining decisions and waited for our server, who also happened to be Peg-Leg Peg. What? The place had no wait staff that the duty had to fall on the decrepid limping hostess?

She first took our drink orders. I ordered my usual, a Margarita with Grande Marnier. They didn't have Grande Marnier. OK. Then get me a regular Margarita.

Julian ordered a Pina Colada.

"What? That's a girl's drink."

"Well, I like it, too."

Then Peg-Leg took our orders. I cannot even remember what we ordered. I think I had something with chocolate mole sauce because it was different and something that I had never tried before.

Julian and I chomped on the nachos and salsa while waiting for our food to come out. It was taking awhile, and our drinks were going down quickly.

Finally Peg-Leg came out with the food. But because of her infirmity, she could only carry out one dish at a time. Definitely not the type of service one would expect from an experienced wait person.

Julian had already finished his drink and had ordered another one. I still had about half of my drink left.

However, Julian was long in waiting for his second drink ~ so long that I had finished my drink and ordered an second one for myself. To add insult to injury,my second drink came before Julian's long-ordered drink.

All the while, I must say that despite the service, the food was OK.

Part way through our meal, I had to go to the ladies' room. I opened the door and saw that it was dark in the room. So I did what most people would do ~ feel along the wall for a light switch. But when I put my hand to the wall, I nearly jumped because I felt a very unfamiliar texture.

I was afraid that I put my hand on something gross. But when I put the light on, I discovered to my horror that the entire bathroom was covered with red shag carpeting. Not only were the walls covered in red shag carpeting, so were the bathroom stalls. I can honestly say that I had never seen anything like that except for a pimped out van in the 1980s.

In the meantime, Julian also had to go to the bathroom. I asked him what his bathroom looked like, expecting that it would be similar to that of the ladies' room.

He said that the men's room had plain black and white tiles and that it was so cold in there that he could see the"steam rising from [his] piss."

No equal opportunity bathrooms in Luana's Mexican Hat.

We ordered dessert, which was very small for the cost.

All in all, while the food was decent, it certainly did not merit the price tag. And with the abysmally poor service that we received, that was the very first time that either one of us laid down a minuscule tip. Peg-Leg Peg was lucky that she even got 5% of the bill

As we were leaving, I opened the ladies' room door and put on the light so that Julian could have a peek. He was just as shocked as I was. But at least he knew that I was not kidding when I told him what the ladies' room looked like.

When we left the place, Julian and I whipped out our cigs and broke out in hysterics.

We were so thunderstruck and bowled over by our dining experience that we had to debrief ourselves.

In thinking it over, it all adds up.

The burned out neon letters, the old menus with the crossed-out prices, the too dark and too cold dining room, and having a disabled person serve as waitress all pointed to the owners being too cheap and doing whatever they could to save ever single penny that they could.

Also, the too dark dining area hid the disrepair that would have been glaringly visible in a normal lighting situation.

It really makes me wonder. With what Julian and I experienced, how could anyone recommend a place like Luana's Mexican Hat?