Monday, April 30, 2012

Auction: SCORE!

There was a big estate auction last Saturday. Steve got hired to work the two days beforehand, picking and sorting. There's a lot he can do from a chair. He let me know some of what was going to be sold. I stopped by and looked it over. We made lists, set budgets per item, put in absentee bids, one of the best ways to avoid missing something important when you're busy doing your own job at the same time.

How did we do? Does it say anything that I called Paul to take one load home in his car at the end of the auction, loaded another box plus in the back of my car among and between the two disassembled scooters and Steve, and made three trips (two by a friend in her nice big SUV) on Sunday to finish hauling stuff home? (Did I mention this auction was 50 miles away from home, and an hour each way?)

Her two trips were for a glass display case and a hutch, both for the living/dining area in Arizona. My second was for a lawyers bookcase, the kind with glass doors that lift up and slide back in. A pair of boat anchors went on the passenger floor of my car as well, forgotten the day before in the chaos.

Paul took home a pair of totes, one with a wok and an electric heater inside, the other with a collection of Louis L'Amour paperbacks. He also took home an electric dryer, since the house has a washer but no dryer. I suspect we'll need to hire an electrician to make it usable. I think the last one was gas down there. They threw in a laundry basket and a covered wastebasket with the dryer, so those went in his car as well. We can always use another.

The box in the back of my car was full of cooking pots and pans: two full sets, both non-stick, nearly new, glass tops. Plus a colander, one honking huge kitchen knife, and a flour sifter.

I almost got a wet tile saw. They had ten of them, boxed. However a kindly little bird put a bug in my ear: these were store returns, and if ten of them, all identical, came back, they must have had some issues. I'd likely be throwing my money away on one. So, even with three rooms to tile eventually, I passed on those. Maybe we'll plan to rent one when the day comes. Maybe there'll be another auction with tools.

Right now the big items are out on the screen porch, covered by a tarp which never quite made it to the top of the RV this last winter and got repurposed. The pots are packed in the two totes and have joined the stacks of stuff accumulating in the living room. Steve's reading his books. The anchors wait for a ride up north to go on Steve's boat, sitting at one of his son's houses.

Are we broke? Let's just say Steve came home ahead, salary vs. spending. I managed to spend less than $70 over my one-day salary. Well, unless you count paying towards gas for the trips to haul it all home and paying for us all having a nice dinner together at the end of the day. But still, well worth it.

Next auction is in two weeks....

Might be time to dig through stuff and find more to sell. Hey, unless somebody comes up with a waterbed frame. Or just the right color recliner in my size. Or maybe....

Chasing Teal

Yes, that "e - a", as in teal. Wherever was your mind headed?

You know how sometimes you first see or experience something and find it repellent, and then later find it growing on you? That's happened with me. My first, second, even third sights of the blue-green bathroom off the master bedroom in Arizona made me shudder. I'm a basic blue-blue or grey-blue kind of gal. Or for that matter, a grey-green kind of gal. Heather tones, if you will. Aquas, turquoises, any greenish blues or bluish greens you care to name were just not where I was going. So my first sights of that bathroom resulted in your basic, "Ooh, that's gotta go."

Just like the carpets and wallpaper. Only, they are going to go. Dirt, allergies, peeling, ugly: name your reasons.

My first inkling that something was changing happened in Target a few weeks back. I had some time while waiting for a prescription, and started browsing through the store. I kept being drawn to the blue-greens in the bath section. A couple visits later I actually purchased two sets of towels (bath sheets for us bigger folks) and wash cloths. They're packed in the open-me-first bathroom box for the move, including soaps and TP, stuff you need right away. First box I packed, actually. The towels were kind of an if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em thing. I certainly couldn't see putting copen blue towels in an aqua bathroom, any more than I could see having to pack our favorite large towels back and forth with the seasons.

Then there was the day I was watching some kind of a makeover show on HGTV. I spend a lot of hours watching over there lately. Somewhere in the back of my head was the idea I might just get an idea I liked, rather than the hundreds I laughed at. It was also fun to make a which-will-they-choose? game out of the shows, as well as a what-a-bunch-of-whiners ongoing commentary when noses got stuck up way to high to be satisfied with anything. Rooms too small, kitchens and bathrooms only updated 10 years ago instead of last month, etc. Plus there's the education of learning terms like "en suite", or traveling via TV to places I'll never go in real life.

Anyway, I saw a room with a teal wall with white trim. I actually loved it! An idea was hatched.

That master bedroom has a 13' long wall, unbroken by windows or doorways. I'm going to paint that a nice deep teal. The other three walls will be more of a pastel teal, one of those complimentary colors the paint colors pre-select for you in the matching-but-lighter/darker paint sample cards. Ceiling and doors/trim will be white. The floor is already a lighter wood laminate, so that part is done. The color samples I carry around in my pocketbook now, having selected the exact ones I want. One gallon teal, two gallons pastel, and a lot of white. It's going on all the ceilings and trim, every room, and likely some of the walls, like in the den or closets. But that's for later. Closer to moving time, gives the paint less time to separate out after mixing.

What's going to make this really pop is the rest of what I'm going to do with that 13' wall. There'll be a bed in the middle, approximately. Maybe a bit towards the window, away from the closet, away from the door to the hall so it looks like the room is even bigger. It'll be a queen, with an underbed storage platform that extends the full way to the floor. That's to keep out dust bunnies and mites, and keep cleaning simpler. Allergies and laziness make good guiding principals in home decor. It'll also be white, though any drawer fronts will be dark teal to match the back wall. I'm thinking about adding 4x4 routered newell posts - if that's the term - on the corners to force us to walk a wider path around the bed so we don't keep knocking knees the way Steve does on his platform bed.

He's still recovering from the last knock.

Around the bed, stacked up along the wall to a height of 6', will be white shelves, drawers, and cubes, partly modular and partly combinations with "found" pieces of old furniture, somewhat ecclectic, all storage, and again, any drawer fronts painted teal.

Among other things this clears the rest of the room of the need for dressers and other assorted pieces of furniture. The tiny room I inhabit now is jam packed with furniture all around the edges and it's hard to move most of the time. Set something down and a path is eliminated.

I started hunting furniture stores and places like Home Depot in the cabinets and closets sections. Nothing quite matched my mental image, and even less my budget. I finally hit Target in the closet storage section. They have a brand called Closet Maid that offers modular pieces that can be mixed, matched, and stacked. Last week I used a 5% discount they gave me for using their pharmacy and did some serious shopping.

The (9) boxes remain stacked in a spare bit of space, unassembled until we get down there, scrape wallpaper off and apply paint, and can turn Paul loose. By then there'll be a drawing he can follow of which goes where. (And he'll tell me which can't.) I have a plan for him to top it off at 6' with something that ties it all together in a uniform look, and makes the bed actually built in with a custom surround measured to fit after all else is assembled.

Part of that custom build is a headboard/wall. It'll have horizontal white wood pieces spaced to let the teal show through, just like it will through the backs of some of the cubes. Attached to those pieces will be a semicircular mirror I picked up at auction a couple years back, knowing it was going to be moved to Arizona and be used there somehow. It's also beveled, double layered in design using clear and smoked glass. That will be the focal piece of the room.

The only hitch so far is the bed.  I can custom order exactly what I want if I care to spend about $7,000. I don't think so: still haven't won that lottery. I can order it from Ikea if I want particleboard for about $350. Again, uh-uh. My next bet is to try waterbeds, both in the only remaining store left in the state, or in ads to sell used ones. I know they are sturdy, and I'm not averse to sanding, re-priming, and painting.Years ago I had one, double storage pedestal, all wood construction, queen sized. Add back problems, and doctor's orders to switch to a standard, sturdy mattress. I don't have that any more. It's twin would be ideal. Preferably somewhere that they don't care if I make three trips to pick it up in order to cram it all in the back of my hatchback.

Make that 5 trips.

Meanwhile each day I'm out driving I'm busy planning another aspect of the room, or the living room, or tile floors, or ....   Hey, it's cheap entertainment. At least until the purse comes out.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Big Pharma At Work

Yes, we love our drugs. I, personally, am talking about the day-to-day stuff we take to maintain good health. Some I've been taking for years, like the diuretic I take to maintain a healthy blood pressure. It's been generic all that time, cheap, no unwanted side effects - unless you count peeing. I take it religiously, first thing each morning. It sits in the medicine cabinet with a few others, right next to the ibuprofin which is also a necessity of quality of life, right where it hardly needs any thought or reminders for me to take it. It's ingrained habit.

The last few months when I've gone to renew the prescription, Target pharmacy has had some difficulties obtaining it. Occasionally they have to substitute tablet for capsule or vice versa. No biggie.

Or so I thought.

Yesterday I picked up the latest renewal. I was braced just a wee little bit for an increase in price. It's been on the $4 list there for years, so I expected it to go up a single dollar over the $3 co-pay I had to pay while on insurance.

Oh yeah, did I mention the health insurance is no longer in effect? I cashed in a $10,000 piece of an IRA last year. That counts as ordinary income, bumping me up over the level that qualifies me for Minnesota Care this year. I didn't actually earn more. Less, in fact. And at my age and self-employed, I couldn't possibly afford to buy my own policy. I'll be waiting with fingers and toes crossed (as if it weren't hard enough to walk with my knees!) for the year and a half to qualify for Medicare.

Back to Target. She rang it up, and casually announced that the price of it this month was $44.00 and change.

!!!!!!!  WTF?  !!!!!

Oh yeah, two days ago they updated their $4.00 list and this was no longer on it. (Silly me to wait until I actually needed the refill instead of getting it early like previous months and then sorting between two bottles of the same meds until the old one ran out.) This was an eleven times increase! Well, obviously I paid for it, having waited until I had no options left.

Big pharma obviously wasn't "getting enough" for the drug, created an artificial shortage, and then bumped the price sky high. Remember, this drug is old, common, nearly ubiquitous.

Last night I emailed my doctor and asked if there might be a substitute medication for me next month. She's been working with me on other meds, knowing as I did that the insurance was soon to drop. Let's see what the choices are.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

But I can't Tell You...

It should have been easy. But of course, you know it wasn’t, or I wouldn’t bother to be blogging about it.

It’s never a good sign when you walk into the local gas station, ask for help locating ______ Street, and everybody laughs at you. Not just the two behind the counter. Both the customers waiting to pay as well. Locals, apparently, and in on the joke. Whatever is was.

By that time, I already knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I had thought differently earlier that day, noting how plainly and simply the intersections to Hwy. 60 between St. James and Windom were marked. The ones which weren’t county roads were 770th Ave, 760th Ave, and so on, counting down by tens about every mile or so. The few homes which had driveways accessed from the highway had those ever-handy fire number signs, such as 77805, 68230. They counted down right along with the cross streets. Perfectly logical. Perfectly in order. Oh, not every mile had an intersection, and to be honest they were a bit more than exactly every mile, since the highway headed a bit south along with west, so it took a bit longer in road miles than map miles.

Still, perfectly logical. I was looking for 500th Ave, and based on all the (literal) signs, it should be just about at Windom, right where the address claimed to be. Should be easy, right?  Just turn at 500th, and go till my house numbers showed up on a fire sign next to the correct driveway. I’ve done it many a time before.

In due time I came to 500th Ave and turned south onto it. Only a gravel road, but hey, it’s rural out here. I drove about a mile before it connected with a paved road. Not one dwelling was located along its length, so I had no idea where my address numbers should line up. Did I need to go north or south? And though the paved road had no sign with a name, I checked it out a bit before determining that it was numbered east-west, and apparently not going anywhere near where I needed to go. Figures. It just couldn’t have been that easy.

Time for my usual plan A: hit a local gas station and ask for directions or a map, even a phone book. So on into town. Found a Super America. Asked. Got laughed at.

That’s when they started asking me questions: where on 500th did I need to go? I had address numbers and a name. I was reluctant to give out more information than absolutely necessary. This was a critical medical delivery, bringing parts for a lifesaving machine to replace ones delivered earlier which were the wrong ones. That’s why somebody was paying me to drive a box ASAP almost 150 miles at the end of the day. But that was nobody’s business.

They wondered aloud if it wasn’t such-and-such a development out where somebody else that everybody in the store knew lived. That was really hard to find, even after being there a time or two. Maybe the person in the back of the store knew more. Off my cashier trotted to gain more information. Or try.

Over a full minute later she returned with a phone book in hand, no information for me, but did anybody remember some lady’s married last name so they could look her up, see if it was a close-by address, and call her and ask for directions?


By then I asked for the phone book, found my party, and called. Got the wife of the patient. Introduced myself and my errand, and starting from where I was, how did I get to her place?

Glad as she was to be getting the delivery, she couldn’t tell me how to get there. Now that was a first for me. Usually folks can give even terrible directions, including such gems as, “turn left where Olson’s red barn used to be.” Like I’d know. But, no, she just couldn’t figure out how to tell me. I began to get the full extent of why my initial query met with such laughter.

She did, however, have a solution. How about if I stayed where I was and she drove to me? It would fit in her car, right? Yep, 1’ x1’ x2’, about 24 lbs. No problem. She was only 3 miles away, and would be “right there”. About ten minutes later I was wondering if she could find the place herself, nevermind giving directions. But she eventually arrived, I transferred the box, and secured a few signatures.

As I was getting ready to head home, it now being 6:30 PM and over 200 miles to home, I noticed the lady who’d been trying to help me earlier, now engaging the (my) customer in a discussion of how to get out there. Were they any where near where  the ______s lived? She'd never heard of them. Was it past ____ Bridge? Apparently it was, and they were chatting cozily as I drove off. Maybe the clerk can assist the next confused delivery person in locating the neighborhood.

Maybe at least they won't laugh.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Comparing Surgeries

What is it about that impulse to share surgery stories? It's the old this-happened-to-me, oh-no-mine-was-worse impulse. It also extends to the rigors (horrors) of childbirth, often said in the presence of the expectant first-time mother. Not for nothing are these called war stories.

I just had the occasion myself to indulge in such a sharing with someone just returned to work, still recovering from prostate cancer surgery. His took all day instead of just a couple hours as expected, and his kidneys shut down for three hours. He had been anticipating returning to work after two weeks, and instead was out for four. In my turn I shared about my fibroid removal from last summer. We shared all kinds of info that normally we'd not have spoken of, even though we've known each other over 20 years, but something in a shared situation created a momentary bond. We joked a bit, but it still hurt him to laugh. Not that that stopped us.

At one point it almost got competitive. I mentioned noticeably losing 11 pounds with my surgery, and he commented that he was sure people noticed a difference is him as well.

"Oh, I don't know. I'm sure nobody came up to you and asked, 'Is that a six-pound fibroid in your pants or are you just happy to see me?' "

You Wish Somebody'd Said...

Ted Nugent spoke in front of the NRA recently, saying that if Obama got reelected, he, Nugent, would be either dead or in jail this time next year. In case that's too subtle for you, that's a veiled offer to try to assassinate the president by a right-wing wack job in front of a cult of proudly armed rootin tootin shootin gun nuts.

Yes, the secret service says they are investigating. But don't ya wish somebody had said at the time, "Dead or in jail, eh? I (can) (know somebody who can) help you with that!"

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Raise a Ruckus

It seems I have a scanner that nobody, nobody can figure out how to use. Maybe that's why it's been just sitting on my computer desk for years. But that's well past the end of this story, so let's dive in a bit earlier.

Paul has had his car in for warranty work. For THREE WEEKS! I've heard the jargon explanation now - twice - and it still doesn't make much more sense than that a previous repair part was missing some piece and it's spurting out oil. Bad move.

They did hand him a rental unit, but told him he had to pay for it. Something about the car being purchased at a different dealership than the one doing the repairs on it. Complete hooey, but he's not happy about it. The delays are just salt in the wound, each day more on the tab, and worse gas mileage besides.

Tonight I got a call from him a few minutes after he usually leaves work. I figured he was either well on his way home or picking up his car. Nope. Still at work. He'd gotten a call telling him he'd need a copy of his title or the cab card from renewing his tabs to prove his ownership of the car before they'd give it to him.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF?

I suggested he call for clarification, offer to raise a bit of a ruckus, and even be prepared to call the police if need be to verify whatever he needed to verify in order to reclaim his car. Between his drivers license and his possession of their rental car, what more did they need to give him back his car? I was working my way towards him, as it turned out, nearing my last drop of the day a couple miles from the dealership. I was preparing to head over there myself if need be. Paul is not much at creatively creating a scene, or doing one much of any other way for that matter. I was willing to help.

That's me. A helper.

He called me back after a bit having made absolutely no headway. In fact the regional manager got into the mix and refused him his car. Now, the paperwork needed was sitting at home, a mere 40 miles away, each way. If he went home to fetch it, and came back, would they even still be open? And who ever heard of needing to do all that to get their car back?

I walked into the dealership a bit later with a full charge of adrenaline, ready to do battle. No slinking in to the service bays, uh-uh, not me. Right into the front sales lobby, in front of however many potential customers might be there who ought to hear how they might be treated later if they purchased the cars they were looking at. I figured my best shot of getting some action was to be loud, angry, and as public as possible. And if that failed, I was ready to make my own 911 call to complain about a car theft in progress (by the dealership against us), further complain about it here with all my three or four readers, and even vent on Angie's List.

They have more than 3 or 4 readers.

I gained the attention of the general manager. We adjourned to his office, only because he convinced me he needed access to his computer to gain information on the situation. It opened on the showroom floor, so I figured I could still let it be known we were being shafted if it still was necessary. I relayed the whole story as Paul had relayed it to me, going back to this being a repeat fix. He looked up the file, located some paperwork, made some calls.

There was some immediate good news: no fee on the rental car. Then, the reason for the paperwork was not to prove ownership, but that Paul was the original owner! Somebody lost an important word along the way. Anyway, the warranty on the powertrain only followed the vehicle if it was in the original owner's hands because the first part of the warranty had expired due to mileage, and this was the extended section. In other words, it follows the car for the first 70,000 miles, but between that and 100,000 miles you need also to be the original purchaser of the car.

Did he have the title, aka green card? Sure, at home. How about the cab card from the last tabs update? Threw it away, saw no need to keep it. (That's now changed.) He could look up the next one on the web with his license plate and last 3 of the VIN and print something off that would satisfy part of the requirement as long as he showed the title also. It just wouldn't give his name, but if they thought it would help, he was willing.

Now you have to understand at this point we were having a three-way conversation, the manager with me, me with Paul on our cells, and back to me with the manager. It needed to become a four-way. I called Richard. He got the email address of this guy at the dealership, then called Paul so he could explain where to find the title, then Rich could scan it and email it to the dealership. Slick, huh? Or is your head spinning by now?

After about a ten minute wait, during which I told Paul to head on over to the dealership - he was still at work, phone and web access - since it looked now like he was going to be able to get his car after all. I called Rich back to see what kind of problems he was having. He'd just gotten the power supply reconnected to the scanner, don't bother him now....

Meanwhile the manager had an idea and accessed the DOT website using their own "back door" for information and verified date and location of purchase, that Paul was registered owner, in fact everything except proof of continuous ownership needed by the car company itself in order to OK the coverage for the repair. No OK, and Paul would need to pay the bill himself to get his car.

I saw the list of everything done for the repair. It was not going to be cheap. One tiny missing part seemed to involve half of everything under the hood. No way were we leaving there without that OK.

The manager called another supervisor and verified that this info sheet plus the title should give all the information necessary. Paul had arrived by then and much was explained to him about what was going on. Then the manager got another brainstorm, and had the service guy bring Paul's car around front so they could go through the paperwork in the glove box from the original sale. Sure enough, no title (who'd be that stupid as to leave the title in the car?), but bill of sale, financing info, all kinds of goodies to show he was the original purchaser. The manager left the room to make copies, figuring out loud that if they buried the warranty people in enough paperwork they'd have no questions about their proper need to honor the bill.

I called Rich again. He'd gotten the scanner to claim it copied the document, but couldn't get it to save it, much less transfer it to a blank email form to send. I was able to thank him for his efforts and let him know his efforts were no longer necessary. I'm not sure which made him madder, the nutty scanner or all that work for nothing.

The manager returned with the copied paperwork, called his contacts again to verify what he had should enable releasing the car to Paul, and was putting it all back in Paul's folder, when he opened one last document. "Oh, you purchased the extended warranty, 100,000 miles bumper-to-bumper? You're covered. Even the rental car."

Never mind. (Don't you miss Emily Litella?)

With a few gentle words about showing that next time he came in for service, he handed Paul his keys, and hands were shaken all around.

I do remain convinced, however, that none of this would have happened had I not walked in ready for bear. Angry. Loud. Public.

So, do you supposed that scanner would make a good paperweight?

Critique: Failure! However..

I'd say the critique of the stevia brownie recipe was unanimous for failure, but that wouldn't quite highlight the strength of the reaction from Paul. He found it bitter and sour, suggesting salt be added to decrease bitterness. Since I'd found it both bitter and salty, that didn't seem to be the cure. Steve thought putting some in a bowl and pouring milk over the top might be a fix, but decided that just wasn't a go either. I gamely finished them, being the sort who hates to waste any chocolate, no matter how bad. The sole exception was that long-ago batch which, as a non-smoker, I'd tried adding marijuana to in order to see if I could get any effect from them. What an awful thing to do to brownies! I'd class this as second worst, but marginally edible to the very determined.

I do note that the packaging claims that it's much sweeter than sugar. That certainly didn't seem to be the case. Nobody's palate detected sweetness, though it wasn't as bitter an unsweetened chocolate would have been, so there must have been some sweetening.

They were also quite dry and didn't cover the pan when the mix got spread in it for baking, nor did it spread out in the heat of the oven.

So: changes. Try again. I am nothing if not determined when it comes to chocolate.

I worked to cure the dryness by changing the butter amount to a full stick: easier to measure anyway, and not so-o-o-o much more fat. The big change was going half-and-half on real sugar and stevia. The batter tasted better and spread into the pan better. This changes the carb count of course, but by just over double, making the recipe total 166 grams of carbs. Cutting it into 16 pieces gives you approximately 10 grams of carbs per brownie, or conversely, 12 pieces gives you 14 grams of carbs per piece, or one carb unit.

* * * *
Critique: While it's still dry (cut baking time, I think, to 20 min), it's an acceptable brownie. No, wait. It's an acceptable chocolate something. It's still not a brownie. There's a slight weird taste for a moment, but the after that the taste is all good. I think it's salt, so I'm going to cut that again for next time. Still a bit dry, and if the baking time doesn't fix that, look into adding moisture some way other than more fat, though using a whole butter stick is simpler than 1/3 cup plus 2T for the first go-round. There will be at least one more adjustment. But hey, I'm a willing guinea pig. It is, after all, chocolate.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Heather's Saucepan Brownie Recipe

With all credit to Lylah Rosa, this has been adapted enough that I'm going to put my name on this version.

I got up early this morning to make these, and found the single saucepan in the house that is up to the job, the 3 qt., sitting on the stove crusted with dried mac-n-cheese. Since it's soaking a bit, I'm blogging.

Grease and flour an 8" cakepan, set aside. Set oven at 350.

In saucepan over low heat:
melt 1/3 cup + 2T margarine/butter. (not water-added kind)
6T unsweetened cocoa

Turn off heat. Beat in:
1 cup stevia
2 eggs

Sift together and add:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder.

Optional: add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.
Pour into cake pan, bake 30-35 minutes. Done when top crust will take slight imprint from thumb. If you wait for the dry toothpick test, will overbake. Cool in pan an hour. Cut and serve.

Carbs: whole recipe has 66 grahms of carbs. Divide by number of servings.

I'll be back later with taste test. Possibly after the auction.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Couple Tips From the Day

I learned a couple things today. More, actually, but these are worth passing on.

For diabetics and weight watchers: Stevia is a sugar substitute that you can actually bake with! I jumped on the Splenda bandwagon a few years back, and quickly became disappointed that baking with it produced a gooey lump of whatever-it-was. Mostly now it gets used on cold things like fruits that need a little something, or occasionally in jellies. I'd run across the name stevia a couple times, but hadn't gotten around to doing anything about it after the Splenda experience. Today it got recommended as a real sugar substitute for baking, and as a result actually picked some up at the store. I also had Rich haul up a box of unsweetened cocoa from the basement to use in a favorite but abandoned brownie recipe. I am so-o-o-o-o looking forward to giving it a try this weekend.

As a side note, the recipe is already adapted from a previous one which makes you melt down blocks of unsweetened chocolate. My late mom-in-law worked out how to use cocoa and butter to get the same result, simpler, faster, and likely cheaper. Now all I'll have to do is figure out the carbs in the flour and I'll know how much I can eat at any given time.

More to come.

* * * * *

A second item of note to me came in the painting aisle of the WalMart in Pine City, where I wound up after my last drop of the day. I could go into this long explanation of what the project is requiring stripping off wallpaper and the plans for after, but it's late and that'll wait. Suffice it to say the paper is old, nasty, and must go. It currrently, uh, decorates the two largest rooms of the Sun City house, so quite a chore. I was picking up the tools that somebody (else) will need to score and strip the wallpaper, when a friendly clerk stopped and asked if I had questions.

Of course! When don't I? I started with how does one refill the blades on the scraper? They weren't in the store. (Try internet or hardware store. And WalMart, you're missing a sale here.) Then she offered advice on wetting down the paper, when one doesn't want to use - as in rent - a steamer. There is, of course, a bunch of bottles of stuff they sell, or that Home Depot sells, or anybody else with an interest in making an extra buck sells to the do-it-yourself crowd. They seem awfully small. And pricey. So the tip I got from her - who shall remain nameless in the interests of her keeping her job - was to go get a big jug of cheap liquid fabric softener, mix it with really hot water, and spray it on with a spray bottle.

I'm guessing that tip will save me about $30 for the chore, something better spend on painting supplies.

Probably smells better too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Changing Plans

Years ago I fell in love with some green Italian marble, really deep green, nice polish. I brought home a box. Only 10 one-foot squares. Only 80 lbs.

My kitchen didn't have enough storage, so we hit the do-it-yourself store, brought home some top cabinets to install across under the dining room window at floor height, a nice oak front which Paul stained to match the rest of the wood. A built-in buffet, if you will, complemented by more high cabinets on each side of the window. A couple spacers, a hole for the vent from the furnace, a slab of plywood across the top, and we were ready for the marble.

And we were ready for the marble. Hey, we were ready....

Need I mention it never got permanently installed? Sure, it got laid out, eventually, and some bits of millwork got laid between tiles to act a substitute for grout, but no adhesive was used, no front put on. When a plant in the window got tipped over, we could easily pick up the tiles, wash them off, and replace. It was kinda beautiful and kinda ugly.

For years.

Part of the issue was nothing quite fit. It was "good-enough" - no it wasn't! - and so it sat.

With the new house in Arizona to clean up and decorate, I started casting about for ideas - read that "excuses" - for taking the marble tiles down there for a project. Ten sq. ft. of marble is not quite the right size for anything. Since Steve and I have been browsing through the tile sections of stores, it didn't escape our attention that mosaic tiles are quite the thing these days. We looked at several ideas for incorporating them into a future floor tile design for the three rooms where we will be replacing filthy carpeting in with tiles. The budget says carpet comes out immediately, tiles in... later sometime.

Suddenly something clicked. I knew where to use the green marble! And, how to make it work.

In the Arizona room, sometimes called the first lanai, sits a gas fireplace. On either side of the chimney, from mantle to ceiling, are wood panels painted a very ugly black. I could get some thin plywood, cut a piece to fit each spot, hit a local tile store for more marble in, say, green with white or white with green, and different sizes, and custom make a decorative piece to install in each spot. It's going to be the green room anyway, getting the green Persian rug, the green futon, etc. Make a couple pieces of tile art to accent it. Cool!

That leaves this house and a serious need for a top to the buffet. (Just like it's been for years, actually.) So tonight I hit Home Depot with an eye to some different kind of project to finish the thing off - finally!

My initial idea was going with neutral one-foot tiles with mosaic pieces as accents and space fillers. Nothing I saw inspired me, not in neutral colors. Needing a front piece for a finishing edge led me to look at those selections of tile offering a match, but they were all for larger tiles. Wouldn't fit. And Yikes! $11.00+ a running foot! There were lovely selections in the custom order section. Lovely prices to match as well. C'mon, guys, the rest of the counters in this house are formica. Let's not get carried away.

I left to go look at the millwork to see about a wood front edge, but they were unfinished, and nothing really fit the bill as I envisioned it. And when I get that mental image all thought out in my head, it's pretty hard to budge me. On the aisle next to the ceramic tiles was the laminates, and I rode my shopping cart on a stroll through there just to see what we didn't pick for the house. Under the flooring they had pieces of all kinds of milled and finished thresholds. Hmmm.... Eureka! I found the perfect one, some kind of a reducer for carpeted areas bordering laminated ones. Sitting vertically rather than horizontally, it would be perfect for the buffet front edge, and they had some in what my eye said would be a perfect match for our oddball fruitwood wood stain, and in oak, to boot.

Heartened, I went back to the tile aisle. This time what caught my eye was a set of little glass mosaic squares labeled iridescent. Huh? Really? White/green, intriguing but no. Brown/copper, better. Green/copper! Wow! This was it! The tiny squares should solve all the it-doesn't-fit-right issues, and the colors would be perfect blending in with the green walls and fruitwood stain cabinets. But I needed to find a ceramic to go with them so I had an excuse to use them.

And I did. But it was a surprise. What I thought at first I liked, I also found in 6" squares. I liked those even better. Instead of having the mosaic being the background, it just became the main field with the 6" tiles interspersed in a random pattern as an accent. There was a half box of the ceramic bundled together, and I couldn't use a full forty of them anyway, not in this small a project.

With a little help from a friendly clerk, I got the right kind of adhesive for glass tiles, and picked out a grout color as well. Unfortunately, the grout I liked only comes in large bags there, so she suggested I shop around and see if I can locate a smaller quantity somewhere. It needs to be somewhat light and bring out the copper in the glass as well as that color in the ceramic.

Toting it all home and laying it out, I still love the idea and the colors. Now to get Paul to do that last bit of work on the cabinets....

I'll give him two weeks. That way I'll have the taxes done - or else! - and can devote a weekend to this job.