Tag Archives: it was a bargain!

Let the festivities begin!


So this morning we ventured forth into the 22 degree weather to get our annual Christmas tree.  This marks the fifth straight year that we have done so as a family, going to the same tree farm each year.  We like this tree farm because although the trees are somewhat more expensive than the ones at the gas station, they have a petting zoo and free cocoa and they drill a hole in the end of your tree and stick it on a patented “Marriage Saving Tree Stand” so that when you get it home you just stand it up and it’s ready to decorate.

Note: feeding farm animals a handful of oats for 25 cents — thereby transforming a fifteen dollar bag of oats into a veritable gold mine for the farm (note to self: THIS IS WHERE THE MONEY IS EARNED, THE TREES ARE JUST TO LURE YOU IN) is a major draw for the children, but it’s the tree stand that brings The Lovely Rhonda and I back year after expensive year.  No price is too high to pay to get out of having to apply a rickety pot-metal stand to the nether regions of a majestic fir tree, and furthermore get it to stand up straight.   It’s a miserable hobby that nobody enjoys, least of all me, the designated spider-killer, lawn-mower and tree-erector of the household.

Each year we have also had to find our way to the tree farm as though we had never been there before, because we can only remember the vaguest details about it — “it’s the one with the goats, and I think there was a guy in suspenders?” — and certainly can’t be bothered to recall useful information such as, for instance, its name?  Or perhaps general location?

And so it was that we once again this year performed the traditional Festive Annual U-Turn when we realized we were, as with the previous three years, on the right road but going the wrong way.

Within moments of embarking from the Minivan of Justice we found a worthwhile adversary and, as always, I was elected to dispatch the thing.  We dragged its gory remains back to the van:

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Then as we drove it up to the barn for embalming shaking and baling, TLR said, Um, guys?  Look out the back window?  What is that?

And there was a llama being walked around the estate, all splay footed and knobbly kneed, and we had to pile out and meet it.

Her name was Shania Twain and we dutifully had a photo op.

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Once we’d exhausted the possibilities of the llama-tree-farm juxtaposition absurdity factor, we crept onwards to the barn.  We allowed the children to ride sans belts, on the floor if desired, and the eldest enjoyed a heretofore unprecedented joyride in the forbidden front seat.  Such is our carefree existence that this relaxation of protocol made them all giddy and unmanageable.

At the tiny guard hut where you pay for your kill tree, the cashier informed us jubilantly that the car ahead of us had gotten their tree for free.  One of the local credit unions was handing out envelopes with coupons in them for varying amounts off of the purchase price of the trees, and these lucky bastards fortunate holiday shoppers had received a fifty dollar coupon.  Ours was for twenty dollars for which we were pretty stoked, right up until we heard that.  THANKS FOR THE BUZZKILL, CASHIER LADY.

I kid.  The whole thing was pretty magical.  We had no idea they were doing that today and it was a really nice bonus to get the tree for basically one-third off.

We had that sucker shaken, baled and stuffed in to the MOJ in no time and proceeded on, as is customary, to the petting zoo.

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Then we piled into the MOJ and drove our trophy home, to display it in all its grisly splendor until the day after Christmas, at which point I will become physically unable to stand the disruption for ONE. MORE. SECOND. and strip it of ornaments and lights and dump it in the side yard.  The end.


The Weddin’ — Part II


So we got married on Saturday.  The first time was of course just for show.  And to get lattes.

After that we stampeded on home to throw some of our stuff in the van and then head to the beauty school down the street for some beautification.

Because, you know, it’s a weddin’.  We got to look all purty.  And, I’m a lesbian.  For a long time, my idea of beautification involved wearing my newer Crocs, and maybe earrings.  So, although I’ve come a long way in recent years, I’m not exactly well-versed in Fancy Hair.

We had inquired at the salon we usually frequent, about whether they could gussy us up for the nuptials.  Sure, they said, but it would cost ninety dollars.


Oh, and they didn’t have two appointments available that day anyway.

So no.  The Lovely Rhonda then phoned up the beauty school to see what could be done.  Turns out they are always looking for victims  guinea pigs customers.

At the beauty school they managed to get the entire wedding party — the brides, the three little-girl attendants, my oldest friend from high school, and our babysitter — done in about an hour.  And, at fifteen bucks a pop, it was 105.00 plus tip for the entire posse.

A few days ago I posted a rather snarky comment on Facebook about some ladies, a mother and daughter, that I saw at the supermarket.  They looked as though they had just stepped out of that Jersey Shore show — voluminous dyed black hair, snug outfits, designer purses, teetery shoes, tons of cleavage, heavy makeup.

Guess who owns the salon?

Jersey Mama.  Nice lady, as it turns out.  Remind me to cut the snark back a little further.

The nervous, sweaty students spent this hour applying every curling iron in the building to the various hairs of our various heads.  I learned some stuff.

1.  If you normally have straight hair, curls are required for fancy events.

2. The opposite is true if you normally have curly hair.

3. Curling irons come in a dizzying array of “barrel sizes.”

4. A 5-year-old will sit unnaturally still for an hour if a teenaged beauty school student is wielding a hot hairstyling implement to her head.

5. It takes a solid hour of attention with a one-inch-diameter-barrelled curling iron, as well as expert supervision by a trained professional, to make my hair straight.

6. Not to mention about a can and a half of hairspray.

7. Curly hair is much longer when straightened.  (I already knew this but threw it in because it was dramatically longer and I felt that this deserved mention).

Afterward we returned home for a mad scramble of gathering various Fancy Event Costuming bits and personal care products after which we high-tailed it to the church, arriving only about fifteen minutes later than we had estimated.  Not bad.


Brick. House.


So the other day The Lovely Rhonda called me and plaintively whined about The Brick On The House and how unlovely it is and can we please have our siding wallah take it down before his crew of minions left for the day.  This was on Wednesday and I was at work. 

Because I live to make TLR happy, and also because she had been cogitating over this brick thing for months on end, I said yes, please have them take it down.  I didn’t have strong feelings about the brick either way and clearly it meant a great deal to TLR, whom, as I said, it is my sole aim in life to make insane with happiness and harmonious agreeableness.

So I can check that off my list, because she continues to rave about the brick and how it is gone and what a difference it makes and so forth.  This after three entire days have passed.

It took a bit of a toll on my plants because the brick fell in great slabs directly onto them.  So I lost an azalea, and a few Gerber daisies, and probably some other things, but the important thing here is that the brick, it is gone.

Actually it isn’t so much gone as it is relocated, into a jumbled heap of masonry along one side of the house. 

You can tell who your friends are when you face adversity, and I’m thinking that the jumbled heap is definitely named Adversity.

Did I mention how today is the hottest day so far this year, in fact in three years, and it was 102 degrees, and nobody can stop talking about the heat?  Yet despite this, two different friends came and sat with me in the shade of my garage and knocked mortar off of brick.  I am salvaging usable brick from this heap so that we can use it to put a path next to the driveway and also to expand the patio a bit on three sides.

I bought a couple of different types of chisel and some rubber mallets and a stiff wire brush, and dragged a defunct kiddie pool from the back yard and we submerged bricks in it.  We did this because my mother, who is a fount of knowledge about these things, told me that it makes the process easier if you soak the bricks.  Lord knows they will dry out quite nicely in This Heat.

And so for about six hours today I sat with soaking wet leather work gloves on and chiseled mortar from bricks.  The water kept The Heat at bay, and the friends made the process less tedious, and so far we’ve made the tiniest dent in the heap. 

And my arms and hands are so tired.  I only stopped because I was having difficulty gripping the chisels and mallets any longer.  My hands are stiff.

But there will be brick!  For projects!

Hello again Mr. Pratchett


So today I did find a pair of work shoes, not the ones I was looking for but a fine pair of shoes if I do say so, and on sale:

I had a pair of shoes much like these once upon a time and I wore the living crap out of them.  I anticipate a similar experience with this pair.

Since I was close to a Goodwill store I popped in to indulge in my guilty pleasure: rummaging through the used books for Terry Pratchett titles.  (Here is a previous post regarding this curious pastime)

Oh internets.  I was not disappointed.  There they sat, in a neat row, looking completely unread they were in such pristine condition: NINE paperback titles.  I was fairly sure that I didn’t have most of them, doubting perhaps two, and at $1.99 each I could afford to be wrong (or else swap mine out for ones in better condition).   I snatched them up with a girlish cry of delight.

Once I was home I checked them against my slowly-expanding library of Pratchetts and found that I was correct in doubting the two — but one of them is a bit raggedy and can be traded.  The other, however, is a hardbound book club edition published in 1987 and sporting what is arguably some of the worst dust-jacket art of all time, and I cannot bear to part with it.  I bought it for four bucks at Goodwill and I see now that it is being offered at upwards of $20.00 plus shipping for a copy on various sites. So I shall keep mine and find a new home for the extra copy.


Oh, life is good, internets.  New shoon and new books.  I wish the same to you all.

Repaint, and thin no more


So as either of you might recall from an earlier post, we recently were afflicted with Kitchen Envy, specifically Spruced Up Kitchen Envy (a particularly virulent strain).  The only cure is to make multiple trips to the hardware store between bouts of feverish sanding and painting.

The kitchen as it was.  Note the brown varnished cabinets and pasty walls.  What you can’t see is how the drawers sit all cattywampus and threaten to fall out if manhandled, i.e. used in any way.

Cabinet door removal is underway.

The old hardware was designed by Klingons.  We removed most of the old knobs and pulls the minute we moved in.  The ones above the refrigerator were the only survivors.    And why put the pulls in the center of the cabinet doors?  Mid-70’s cabinet manufacturers were obviously on drugs.

These knobs bring honor to my people. Sadly, they also look like hell.

Several kind souls came over to help us, sanding and painting and just doing all kinds of helpful things.  One of them stayed for three nights, an unprecedented act of kindness that we can never repay.  We tried to get a start on this by buying him lunch but our rewards program kicked in and his lunch was free.  Let no good deed go unpunished!

Who knew we had this many friends?

A true friend will sand cabinet doors for you even though it's cold and rainy out.

Amber is flexible and compact.

We had sixteen cabinet doors and six drawers to paint.   Our friend Josh (who slept for three nights in the middle child’s room on Princess Flower Rainbow Unicorn sheets without complaint, while the middle child bunked with the oldest child) repaired/replaced the drawer hardware, cabinet hinges and pulls for us.  Because the forty-year-old hardware didn’t exactly match the new stuff, this involved drilling a lot of holes in stuff.

We had initially planned on painting the countertops but what we found was that the new colors of wall and cabinetry made the existing counters less unbearable. The countertop paint is fairly toxic and I’m glad not to have to deal with it.

These aren’t the photos I’d like to post in that everything isn’t finished — we still have three doors to hang –and there’s a certain amount of junk laying around cluttering up the place, but we’re both under the weather today and not able to work on it more at the moment.  But I really wanted to get this posted, so here goes:

Clean and fresh!

We even replaced my old ghetto toaster oven, purchased thirteen years ago.  It wasn’t toasting terribly well anymore.  I’ll miss the melted bread wrapper on the top.  The new one’s bigger and matches the other appliances better.  I’LL NEVER FORGET YOU LITTLE TOASTER OVEN

An old friend.

The new Toast-O-Matic 9000 (now with tint control!)

This week we’ll get started, and maybe even finish, the floor, and then we’ll be done with the inexpensive cosmetic overhaul of the kitchen.  Next, the siding project will get underway.  Further posts as events warrant!  Stay tuned!



Wild Hairs


So we dropped by to visit our dear friend Amber.  Amber is what you might call very energetic.  She is also possessed of the impulse to improve everything she touches.  We call Amber when we need to rearrange a room and haven’t the slightest idea how to position things.

Amber has recently made over her kitchen on a shoestring budget and viewing it has caused us to come down with a raging case of Kitchen Envy.  It turns out that a shoestring budget is our specialty, because we have to put new siding on the house this year and cannot afford much toward updating anything else.  Yet our horrible kitchen is so repulsive that we cannot stand to look at it any longer.  The appliances are decent, but the cabinets are funky and old and the sheet vinyl flooring is pretty beat up.

But we have a few dollars to throw at this, so we paid a visit to Homey’s to “look” at colors and so forth.

You know where this is going.

The back end of the van is filled with peel-and-stick floor tiles, cans of paint, and this fantastic thing we found called countertop paint.  Our existing countertop is… well… well, it’s green.  It’s bulletproof, in decent shape, not torn up, but it’s green.  Sort of a pale avocado green.  Frankly, I’m not a fan.

So The Lovely Rhonda had me bring in the paint cans so we could get a little idea of what the transformation will look like.

Manly, yes, but we like it too.

You can just see the countertop color below the outlet.

In related matters, we rang up a friend a couple of houses away to inquire whether she might have a palm sander or similar we could borrow since there seems to be a lot of sanding involved in this project.  She is of the sensible-shoed lesbian persuasion so stereotypically speaking might have a few power tools cluttering up the garage.  We once borrowed a socket wrench from her as I recall.

“Did you forget who you’re talking to?” she chuckled.  “Of course I have one.  Let me know when you’re starting the project and I’ll come over and laugh at you.  I mean watch you.”

We start Thursday.  See you all then?

Why Hello There, Mr. Pratchett


Okay, so I didn’t actually MEET Terry Pratchett today, but it was the next best thing.

I have this thing wherein if I enter a thrift store for any reason I peruse the book section for Terry Pratchett books.  I usually come up with nothing because who in their right mind gives away a Terry Pratchett book?  But once in a while someone else’s misfortune benefits me.  I can picture it:

“Honey, where did my copy of Thud! go?”

“Your what?”

“You know.  That book?  With the helmet on the front?  That book that is MADE OF AWESOME?”

“Oh, that old thing?  Oh, I gave that musty old thing to the Goodwill months ago.  Let’s go see Breaking Dawn tonight!”

This exact scenario, no doubt, accounts for the high rate of divorce these days.

Anyway, over the many months that I have pursued this bizarre hobby I have managed to accumulate a few titles.  It’s the thrill of the hunt, since I could waltz in to Powell’s and buy any and all titles that I could wish for, but it rankles me to pay that much.  Besides, it seems more meaningful somehow to gather them piecemeal like this.

(I really would waltz, too, because that is the kind of dork I am.  Trust me, this is better for everyone.)

Anyway this evening I had some unwanted junk that needed a new home so we dropped it off at the drive-through donation thingy at Goodwill, and then Delia convinced me that we should go inside to look for a stuffed animal.  Because the fifty or so that she has are all so boring now.  I agreed to this with the caveat that she would part with one of her existing animals to make room for it.  Of course I had to meander through the book section, and of course I had to find the science fiction/fantasy shelves, and of course there they were.

Four titles, three of which I was positive that we didn’t own and one that I wasn’t sure about.  And all inexpensively priced!    I literally (ha ha) could not lay my hands on them fast enough, and it was all I could do not to scurry out of the store cackling and rubbing my gnarled old hands together.

You look so nice up there on the bookshelf, Mr. Pratchett.

We’re peeing in sunshine (woh-ooooah)


So today The Lovely Rhonda and I had a little time on our hands.  It was the last unstructured day of the “vacation” that we took.

I was restless.  I have the hormones, you see, and lordy do they make me crazier than a shithouse rat.  Also, I’ve been under some stress about Stuff I Don’t Want To Talk About Here, and the combination of the two is never good.  Ask TLR.  She keeps a stash of cardboard boxes in the garage against the day when she can no longer stand me.  For my stuff, you see.  To put in the driveway.

Anyway, what I often find myself doing when I’m Like This is shopping.  Not like crazy buying stuff I can’t afford and don’t need shopping, but like browsing in thrift stores and rarely buying more than a paperback book shopping.  Just poking around.

We ended up in a discount home goods store where we spied a delicious shower curtain, competitively priced.  We’ve had the one we’re using now for a long time, it has monkeys on it and it’s not terribly sophisticated according to my mother.  Although she’s not inclined to say such things unsolicited or anything, but when I told her about the new one she said, ever so delicately, “Is it more…. sophisticated than the one you had?”

So we both fall in love with its riotous colors and general lack of primates, and TLR, because she is perfect in every way, turns to me and says, How about we buy this and then go to Homey’s and pick up some paint and paint the bathroom?  Like today right now?


So we do, and we pick out paint and we bring it home.  And we paint like our lives depend on it.  Because tomorrow we have plans, and the weekend is full of things to do, and school starts next week, and we both go back to work, and and and.

Which is how the bathroom is suddenly violently orange in places and searing, retina-exploding yellow in others.

Also, we got a new bath rug which is purple.  It all makes sense, trust me.


Believe it or not, this is an improvement!

Another use for Coban ™


So today I’m cleaning our bedroom, the loveliest room in the house.  It’s suffered from neglect because the rest of the house always gets attention first, but my mom and stepdad are coming over tomorrow.  There’s an electrical issue affecting some of the outlets and the overhead light in that room so they’ll want to go in there.  Eek.

We bought a shoe rack a while back to keep our impressively large collection of shoes on.  It’s made of metal rods, you know the kind I mean.  The front of the shoe rests slightly lower than the back of the shoe (assuming you put your shoes on it so that their backs are to the wall).

Unfortunately, while I was deeply satisfied with many things about this rack, such as its price, functionality, even its appearance which was quite benign — it had an annoying tendency.  It’s very lightweight and the metal rods are so smooth that the shoes have nothing to grip, and if you bump the rack or attempt to remove a pair of shoes from it, all the pairs of shoes come sliding off of it in a cascade.

This is particularly irritating early in the morning when you’re trying to be quiet while the other occupant of the room is still sleeping.  The shoes fall off the rack quietly, but the swearing is difficult to keep at a low volume.

We poked around at a few hardware and home-improvement stores looking for grippy tape of the sort that you put on outdoor stairs to keep people from slipping on them, but to no avail.  Then as we stared at the umpteenth roll of unsuitable tape, this time a cloth athletic tape, it slapped me upside my head out of nowhere:  Coban ™.  That rubbery, stretchy bandage roll that sticks to itself, used mainly by phlebotomists when they take your blood at the lab.

It’s grippy.  It’s easily obtainable.  And, if you know where to go, it’s cheap.

Where to go is the feed store.  People who have horses use Coban-type bandage for all kinds of things.  It comes in a variety of exciting colors, and it’s MUCH less expensive than the kind at the drugstore.

Five bucks for two rolls of black self-gripping elastic bandage (black because it’s my bedroom, not a rave party) and the shoes are neatly on the rack and only a comprehensive attack on the shoerack’s integrity will remove the shoes prematurely.

Aren’t you glad I’m so smart?  I know I am.



So we had this minivan.  At the time that it was purchased for us, a wee tiny rubbing sound in the front end went unnoticed.  This tiny sound grew in size and violence (particularly after The Lovely Rhonda hit that one rather comprehensive spot in the road with the metal plate and the big bump) until it was all you could hear.  A co-worker drove it to get lunch one day and came back with great big eyes: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR VAN OMG THE FRONT TIRE SOUNDS LIKE IT’S GOING TO FALL OFF.

It was a bad strut, made worser faster by the bump but clearly on its way out regardless. Expensive repair, but not harmful to the van mechanically to drive on.

Over time, the van also acquired a wee tiny rock chip in the windshield.  Which, barely a week or two later, as I drove to work one day hitting the typical little jars and rough spots in the ordinary roads hereabouts, suddenly went, very quietly, crick.  And became a gigantic smile in the glass, from eyeball level on the driver’s side, down to a few inches above the dash, and back up to roughly the same place on the passenger side.  And which occasionally grew by a few millimeters as the months wore on.  Our insurance?  Yeah, big deductible.  And what with the ANNOYING RUBBING SOUND we were not that interested in sinking a bunch more money into it.

It had the usual wear and tear inflicted by young children, mainly in the form of cracker crumbs and ground-in fruit snacks, plus a masterpiece of marker art drawn by Middle Spawn one afternoon “because ALL THE OTHER GIRLS had something to DO but not ME and I was BORED.”   So, typical stuff.

Oh, and the biggest problem of all: financed by the in-laws.  I’m sure nothing more need be said about this altogether unsuitable state of affairs.  And the credit union wouldn’t refinance them off of it because of its age/infirmity/over 100k miles.

So today TLR awoke with a wild hair, and after lunch and a bit of casual shopping she and I headed off to the local purveyors of used automobiles, where we met a tiny man with a wicked giggle who showed us a truly gorgeous minivan.  Okay, it IS a minivan, and it’s white (but not silver, which we were hoping to avoid, so yay).  But within the subset of white minivans, this one stands out nicely.  Many delightful features such as stow-n-go seating, rear defroster and rear air conditioner (you would not believe how those ordinary things make a huge difference vis-a-vis rear visibility and/or cranky overheated whiny children), windows that go down AND up, and those nifty doors and rear hatch that open all by themselves like MAGIC when you press the clever little buttons.  And it’s only two years old!

Yes, it’s a minivan.  But there’s room for all our traveling crap within, and the children all get to sit hygienically apart from one another where they must go out of their collective and individual ways to be more annoying  than usual.

And while we waited around for all the bean-twiddling and manager-talking-to that has to take place, inevitably, wherever cars are sold, we got to check out the new Camaro.  Only 14 more years until the youngest leaves home and we can get one!