Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bang the gongs! Ring the bells!

Our laundry room is officially done.

With the help of a handyman, the folding-folding tables are now mounted on the wall, and this concludes the laundry room project that began in August. Yes, they're folding-folding tables. Because our new laundry room is also the pass-through to the attic and kind of narrow, I bought a couple tables that fold down that we will use for folding our clothes instead of letting them pile up on the guest room bed. And the handyman also built a little shelf in the guest room closet that is adjacent to the laundry room to hide the pipes that go through it to the laundry machines.

Do you smell that smell? It's the smell of victory.

Verily, verily, it took a long time. It is so hard to get anything done when everything you need to do has something that needs to be done before it. Home ownering is like that, it turns out. Holy.

Next stop: kitchen. But while we're prepping for that, I need to ask the Universe to help me find the strength to persevere. Also, I need the Universe to know that I want some shelves for the living room.

With the completion of this laundry room project, I'm starting to regain strength. Scott and I spent several hours today trying to organize the basement, and that helps a person feel like they're moving in the right direction. I just want to continue this forward movement. I want to feel excited about our house. Universe, will you help me?

While I was napping the weekend before last, Scott rearranged the furniture in the living room in such a way that there is room for a couple proper bookshelves. If I can acquire the bookshelves that will fit, I will be able to unpack my books, which have been in the basement since we moved in. And I will feel more at home. Here's what we need:

Two bookshelves made of solid wood. Maybe even three. We prefer mission style, if possible. We have dark red furniture, so I think darker wood would be nicest. I'd like them to be about five feet tall and two to two-and-a-half feet wide and deep enough to hold your average book - no more than a foot, I'd say.

I have such a specific vision because I saw what I wanted on Craigslist about a month ago, but didn't realize we had the room for them until Scott worked his magic. He is extremely magical.

Anyway, that's it.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween: A washout

In my ever-continuing quest to be the coolest neighbor ever, I purchased full-sized candy bars again this year for Halloween. On account of last year being glorious Halloween weather, we blew through our 120-bar stash. This year, I was determined not to run out, so I bought:
  • one box of full-sized Snickers
  • one box of full-sized Hershey's Milk
  • one box of full-sized M&M with Peanut pouches
  • two boxes of full-sized Skittles/Starburst combo
And then it rained. Oh, but it rained. And we maybe had 40 trick-or-treaters. Towards the end, I was giving every person who came to the door one of each. I said, "You have to take these. You have to save us from ourselves."

And still there are leftovers. Mostly M&Ms, Snickers and Hersheys. I don't know what it is about kids and Skittles-Skittles-bite-sized-candy-taste-a-rainbow-of-fruit-flavors, but it's all they want. It was the older kids who took chocolate.

A man came dressed as Sherlock Holmes with a young daughter. He was collecting candy for his son who was sick at home. I said, "Swine flu?" He said, "Nope, just a head cold." Then he turned to look at our glorious display of candy and he said, "You guys always have the best candy - full-sized bars and everything!"

And then I began to weep quietly, totally by accident, because I was so happy that the reputation I've been fostering is catching on. Scott mercilessly made fun of me for crying. That's okay. I still love him.

(Aside: Last night we watched a terrible film, Away We Go. Save yourself the trouble of seeing this. You think it's going to rock with Maya Rudolph and the guy from the Office since they're awesome. The part where it was written by Dave Eggers and directed by Sam Mendes means it should be out of the ballpark, right? Wrong, my friends! In any case, Maya Rudolph and the guy from the Office were talking about how they are more in love with each other than the other people are, and I was shocked to learn that people besides me believe this about themselves. I always exclaim to Scott, "We love each other so much! We are, like, so much more in love with each other than the other people who are in love with each other!" And it turns out I've been living a lie. Well, not living a lie, exactly, but really telling myself a story, that's for sure.)

The young people from down the street who have been pulling up our plantings? They came buy. I addressed about half of them by name, which seemed to scare the pants off of them. "How do you know my name?!" I said, "Uh, you told it to me and I remembered it?" I didn't remind him that it was when we called the authorities on them, because I was giving them candy and I'm trying to foster friendship.

I think it's working. I don't want to get too over-excited about it, but we didn't get vandalized at all this Halloween. And everyone was so nice! I love being a part of a neighborhood and community. It makes my heart happy.

In other news, our upstairs washer and dryer are installed and working. More on house projects on a different day.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

E.coli, E.coli everywhere...

Okay, so we're in the middle of a giant (for us) house project. We're moving the washer and dryer out of the kitchen and into the little room above our stairs on the second floor. Second-floor laundry is everyone's secret fantasy and it will soon be our reality. Oh, yes!

Our house has been a total sty for a few weeks because a plumber pal is doing this job as a side job (thus the ongoing nature) and the plumbing is coming up through the only two closets of consequence in the whole house and so the contents of the closets have been flung hither and yon. This has been trying for my spirit. I'm nothing even close to a neat freak, but I do have a problem with ongoing chaos. I was okay for a while, but now it's getting to me, for real.

Now, for some background:

When we first bought this house, we ripped out all the carpeting and the linoleum under the carpeting. As you may recall, there was carpet, pad and linoleum even in the bathroom. In several rooms, there were two layers of carpet and then two more layers of linoleum. As I've said before, I fucking hate everyone who ever owned our home, both as a group and as individuals. You know that I'm a lover and not a fighter, and yet I would be happy to punch every one of those motherfuckers in the face, dead or alive. That is the level of my fury.

(Aside: According to Froofy von Doofy, at a certain point, anything that's wrong with your house is your own fault. I am not sure I'm at that point yet. We're on the second major house project our budget allows, and we just keep uncovering former owners' bullshit.)

One thing we discovered upon pulling up the carpet, pad and linoleum in the bathroom is that there were water stains on the wood floor. We could see no evidence of current water leaks, and so we assumed that it was from times past and had the floor sanded and refinished. Great! There's still some staining, but it's not as obscene.

Now, this past Sunday, our plumber pal busted into the drain pipe in the basement to connect everything up proper from our laundry room. I'm telling you, this was a huge job. He estimated it would take 8-10 hours total and it's taken 17 so far. Fucking nuts. Yes, he's very nearly done. In fact, we're so close we could taste it. Still.

So he was here last night putting some finishing touches on the basement action when he feels drips of water on his arm. He wonders where it's coming from and sees that it's coming from the shaft up through the middle of the house that harbors all major water and sewer piping. Awesome.

As he's shining a light up into the shaft, I, not knowing what was going on, went to the bathroom and flushed the toilet. And there was a splash in the basement.

Oh, yes!

Naturally, he shouted for us. We all ended up looking into the shaft and it looks like there's been an extremely slow leak in our toilet pipe area for basically ever. There's all kinds of madness up there. He suspects that when he was busting into the pipe on Sunday that he loosened things up and it turned into more of a trickle than a slow leak. He suspected our toilet seal might be to blame. As I continued to stare up into the shaft, a big drip of water and god knows what rained upon me or, to be more precise, upon my face. That's when I started to gag.

We immediately stopped using the toilet. While I was out on my walk for serenity, I used the toilet at Friendly's.

At this point, it was nearly dark time, so we had no choice but to send Scott to the Home Despot for a new wax ring. There was a bit of drama in that when they pulled the toilet off the floor, there was all kinds of bogusness. Our plumber pal said, "Listen, there's a serious chance that we might not be able to get this toilet back tonight." There was a serious rust and grossness situation. Holy hell.

We made an action plan: if we couldn't resolve this, we were going to camp out at Margaret and Jeremy's.

By the power of Grayskull (and a whole lot of near-hyperventilation from nerves), our plumber pal was able to rig it back up so that the leaking ended and we were able to sleep in our own bed. But this rigging might not hold, friends. This rigging includes pieces of wood wedged into the space between the toilet and the floor. It looks like a crack house in our bathroom!

We were planning to replace the toilet as part of the ongoing house project, and so it seems we will be doing this sooner rather than later. While our toilet isn't the source of the problem this minute (it's actually the flange and the pipe directly underneath the toilet), if we're going to fix all that up proper, it's a fine time to get a new toilet that doesn't empty the resevoir with every flush (we've become an if-it's-yellow-let-it-mellow family -- plus we keep a couple bricks in the tank to reduce the water usage, but still!).

I started doing some online toilet research and stumbled upon a story in Mother Earth News that linked to a PDF of best-toilet research. It's stunning. Anyone in the market for a toilet that wants to know how to get the most efficient bang for the buck will find this 100% useful. Anyone else interested in how independent toilet rating companies rate toilets will be fascinated. I highly recommend that you at least look at the photos of the toilet-testing laboratory and how they make the fake poop that they test flush. Awesome.

All this to say that the strange moisture problem in the basement is now explained. Also, that our bathroom has moved up the priority scale. I will not let it derail the kitchen project. I will not.

The new washer and dryer are being delivered on Wednesday. Once the plumbing inspector gives us the all-clear, we'll be in good shape. Once we pick out our new toilet and have it installed, we'll be golden. I'm considering this one.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

My identical-twin grandmother - plus a few other things

Grandmother Myszkowski, my identical-twin grandmother, will shortly be having a birthday. I'm making her a proper cake next week. I can't wait! I asked her what kind of cake she likes. She said, "Any kind of cake is fine." And then said, "Surprise me!" And then added, all casual-like. "Carrot cake is nice."

She's visiting the north country for the summer, but no one told me she's been up for a month, so I only just saw her last weekend for the first time. Oh, I've missed too much! Last year I saw her a total of once due to moving mayhem and this year I need to catch up. I get such a kick out of that lady. She's a sassy broad who is happy to tell you just what she thinks. Calling her candid would be a bit of an understatement. It's pretty hilarious.

If we're Facebook friends, you've seen her. She's in my current profile photo. That's how fucking cool she is.

Speaking of my grandmother and Facebook, I have a few updates.

Grandmother complained that I'm not updating my blog as much as I used to. (See? I told you she is cool.) She's right. There are a number of things going on here.
  1. One of them is that when something funny or exciting happens, I make it a status update on Facebook. Then I forget about it and I don't write a blog about it. It's Facebook's fault. For example, the Prairie Home Companion live at Tanglewood? That would make a great post! Too bad I wrote all about it already on Facebook. (Summary: I shook Garrison Keillor's hand.) See what I mean?
  2. Scott has rearranged his work schedule to be off on Saturdays, so we could be together more on the weekends when I'm not working. This has been going on for a couple weeks now. Generally, I spend the most amount of personal time online on Saturdays, and if I had something to say would say it then. So there's that.
The other thing is that a fellow friended me on Facebook because he subscribes to my blog! But I didn't accept his friendship because I didn't know him. Then he friended me again, so I gave him the third degree, and then, since it turned out he came in peace, I accepted. I guess my point here is that if you should friend me on Facebook, mention this blog so that I don't treat you like a stranger. Also, I wish I could find out who was subscribed to this blog. Is that something I can find out? Who knows about this stuff?

We will shortly begin a giant house project, which will likely suck my will to live, but will ultimately improve my quality of life so much that I won't even be recognizable. If you happen to notice radio silence around here, drop me a line and remind me to blog about it. It's going to be madness!

Today we bought a new mattress. It's being delivered on Monday. We were just walking on Main Street in Greenfield this afternoon and suddenly found ourselves in Mattress Outlet. We've gone mattress shopping a few times without really falling in love with a mattress and we had no plans to buy a mattress today. Then we placed our bodies upon the most comfortable bed I've ever, ever been on and we had to have it. Plus, since it's from Vera Wang, you know it's stylish. I cannot wait for it to arrive. I'm going to have to rearrange my schedule a bit on Monday to be here when the nice men arrive, and that's fine by me. I can't think of a better reason to rearrange a work schedule, honestly.

The final update is that today I was recognized at my favorite farm stand, Golonka Farm Stand, in Whately. They have such glorious produce and the sweetest corn you will ever taste. Oh, it's so good! We're having some for dinner tonight. In any case, while I was checking out, one of the ladies said to me, "Are you Jennifer?" Indeed, I was Jennifer, and so I told her so. She told me she got a kick out of my radio program. I said, "I get a kick out of doing it, so it all works out." Then I told them that theirs was my favorite farm stand, because it's true, and the lady who never smiles smiled. How about that?

The world, it's our oyster, isn't it?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What's new in the neighborhood?

Well, we bought a car. For the last year and a half, we've been driving a free car from Scott's parents, but the lease will be up on it soon and we needed to make a move. So we made one. There's a shiny, used 2004 Hyundai Accent taking up space in our driveway now. I'm a little bit not excited about it because it's nothing like the lap of luxury we've been sitting in for the last year and a half, but it's a much smarter car for us: small, low miles, excellent mileage, etc. And yet, I admit I will miss having heated seats.

Scott hates heated seats so he will be unaffected by this one part of our new car. He says sitting in a heated seat is like sitting in a seat that's been pre-farted. I can see his point, certainly; I just don't agree.

In case you'd like to stalk us, our new car is light blue.

With the snow melting, we're finding all the dog turds that one of our asshole neighbors has been letting his dog leave in our tree belt and on our sidewalk. Give me a break! We think we know who it is, but we haven't seen any deuce-dropping in action. If we don't catch them in the act and keep a photographic record, the police can't do anything about it. We only know this because our neighbor called the cops about it when they were hitting her yard.

All we can say for certain from looking at the specimen is that it's a small dog. I think I'd just like to have a casual talk with the owner about dog turds and see if we couldn't come up with some sort of amicable resolution without involving the cops. I mean, the Holyoke police have bigger fish to fry than some stupid dog owner letting his dog lay cable in our yard.

That said, I found this customizable sign that I want to get and post on our fence. They print the message for you. I want it to say, "Please pick up your dog's turds." Do you think it might help, or do you think that it will make people throw dog shit over the fence and into our yard? I think it might help because it will show that we have a sense of humor. But they might laugh all the way home to get their catapault and then they might start launching. I'm a little bit sceered.

I also want to get a sign about litter. We're on a corner lot and the cross street is a major pass-through for teenagers and winos. I don't think we can stop the drunks from dropping the nip bottles, but I think we can stop the teenagers from dropping their gum and candy wrappers. Maybe I'm too optimistic. Scott goes out at least once a week and picks up all the trash on both sides of the street in our area. He can't stop giving.

Last summer, someone bought a box of drumsticks (you know, the ice creamy treat), ate them all, put the wrappers into the box and then threw the box over our fence. Talk about infuriating. If I knew who did it, I could probably have set fire to them with just my gaze. Hell, I was mad.

I think the main culprits in our war on litter might be the kids directly next door. I caught one littering over the summer - he threw a brownie wrapper and an ice cream pint right into our driveway - but faked I didn't know he was the litterer. I asked him if he saw anyone throwing trash into our yard. He said no. I asked him if I could count on him to help me keep the area litter free. He said I could. And we haven't had any actual litter in our driveway since, except for the kind that blows into the yard from someplace else.

I'm making it sound like we live in a trash heap. We don't.

Hey, remember Madame Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock?

I have an entire program of flowers and plants planned for the outside and inside of the fence though, to make it look less like a fortress and more like a friendly home. Maybe that will help.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Feelin' hot-hot-hot (a few moments of boiling anger with Jennifer Myszkowski - plus, some advice)

Our furnace had a problem last week and we lost the heat. I wasn't sure what to do, so I called the oil company and asked them if they could service our furnace. The nice lady replied, "We're scheduling service for January."

"I don't know if we can wait that long," I told her, "Our furnace won't turn on."

Lickety-split, there was a fellow (I like to call him Mr. Furnace, though his actual name was Jim) in our basement berating the previous owner of our house for taking such shitty care of the furnace. He was ready to berate me, but when I told him we only just bought the place six months ago and we're first-time home owners, he was filled with the compassion.

Well, not exactly filled, but he had some and he started telling me what we need to do from now on. I think I won him over when I stopped him so I could go get a pen and paper to take notes. I was drinking from his font of knowledge, after all.

In the homeowner statement that sellers fill out, the previous owners of the house claimed to have regularly serviced the furnace.

When Mr. Furnace cracked open our furnace, he said that, at minimum, it's been four years since the furnace was serviced.

I'll tell you, that guy had eyes like an eagle. He was in our basement for two minutes and he noticed an oil leak by the tank, a water leak from the furnace and that there were no service records by the furnace.

The oil leak was a function of the furnace not being serviced for a long time. There's a filter that should get changed once a year. After four years, it kind of gave up and started leaking. Can you blame it?

One thing that Mr. Furnace told us that we didn't know and I feel compelled to share is that if you're looking at a house and there are no service records hanging from the furnace it means:
  1. The homeowner removed them to hide a problem with the furnace
  2. The realtor removed them to hide a problem with the furnace

Bottom line: no service records spells trouble. If there are no furnace service records hanging from a furnace, a home buyer should pay for a furnace inspection ($50-$100) and then force the homeowner to pay for the repairs before making the purchase.

I never even heard of this. Mr. Furnace suggested that perhaps our inspector should have told us this and that he might be a second-rate inspector since he didn't, but I truly don't believe that. Our inspector gave us so much really right-on information and great advice that I can't hold him responsible for missing one small thing.

Also, we read about 100 articles and books about home buying and not a single one suggested this.

But Mr. Furnace suggested it and now I'm suggesting it.

Mr. Furnace was here for about four hours. He replaced the transformer, which blew because the furnace wasn't working properly due to not having been serviced, then he fixed the whole thing up right. It was a giant ruckus and, I'll tell you, Mr. Furnace was furious with the previous owners of our house.

And so was I. I got powerfully angry at those motherfuckers. In fact, Scott and I toyed with the idea of sending them a letter. I wanted it to be snarky and sarcastic. Scott wanted it to be just honest and disappointed. I voted the whole thing down because I don't want to be that guy, but it's so tempting to be that guy!

If we ever sell this house, I hope the new people don't hate us and take our names in vain. We're trying so hard to do right by the house.

When it was all said and done, the bill for the repair was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was still a lot of money, but it certainly could have been more. And the beauty part is that I had the money and we're not going to starve as a result of our having had to repair the furnace. And the reason they hid the service records is because there is something pretty big that needs to be repaired and soon, but it's not effecting the efficiency of the furnace and we still have heat. We just have to closely monitor the water level until it's repaired. But the other beauty part is that it turns out that my dad (the Artist) knows how to make the repair and has offered to help. All we have to do is buy the parts.

But let this be a cautionary tale: take care of your furnace with annual service and don't assume the previous homeowners are telling the truth.

Speaking of: if you know a person who can properly service a slate roof, e-mail me. They claim they had it gone over in March of this year, but I don't believe them. And either way, you're supposed to have it gone over every spring anyway.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Little bit by little bit

I was talking to my carpool partner this morning about how there are this many things to buy and, like, this much time and money. Which is fine. We knew this coming in. It's not like we didn't know. We knew. He was all, "Welcome to home ownership."


We just made the arrangements to purchase some second-hand cabinets from some nice ladies in Vermont. We found them on craigslist. Scott's picking them up on Friday with a rent-a-truck. Did you know that we have no counters at all in our kitchen? Well, we don't. How previous owners ever made food is a mystery.

How the kitchen has never been remodeled before we weaseled our way in over here is a mystery as well.

I've been feeling a little down about how it hardly looks like we've done anything in here, and all we're doing is doing things in here. Our housewarming is on Sunday and we have a number of friends and strangers coming by for it. I want the house to totally rock, and it will, but mostly because there will be a band playing.

One of the reasons that no one will notice that we're getting things done is that we're doing things that no one would imagine would need doing. For example, the bathroom window. We didn't know we had a bathroom window before our inspection. It was hiding behind a shower curtain. Great. Also, it was painted over. Fine. I decided that I would scrape the paint off last weekend. I went to Highland Hardware and bought a small window razor scraper thing. Tesia came by. She said, "Why don't you just make this window the first one you replace?"


With Tesia's help, I spent an hour and a half scraping the living bejesus out of the window - just the bottom pane. Turns out it wasn't just paint on the window: it was also contact paper designed to look like a frosted window. The contact paper wasn't much interested in coming off the window, and smeared a thousand pounds of snot-like glue all over. I had to use nail polish remover to dissolve and remove it.

Hooray for toxic fumes!

After Tesia left, I tried my hand at the top pane. I got about an eighth of the way through and cracked it. Just like that. So I guess that'll be the first window we replace.

One of my problems is that there are about a thousand things to do in here and I have time and sanity for about three things. I keep giving myself assignments and barely meeting my own deadlines. It's embarrassing.

The progress is slow, but at least there's progress. Please notice the progress when you come by on Sunday.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

The insanity continues

Listen. It's crazy time over here. My friend Amy came by and helped me pack up a whole bunch of my shit. Tomorrow Scott and I spend the whole day at the new house working. It's been very hard, and more than I bargained for, if you want to know the truth. We only have a little more carpet to pull up before we lose our minds entirely. Man!

I need a product called the PaintShaverPro. It does exactly what we need to have done. However, it's very expensive and I can't find a single rental place that carries it.

Do you have a PaintShaverPro? If so - I know I'm a stranger and all, but - can I borrow it? I promise not to break it or cause it any trouble. I will buy you a new carbide blade. Seriously. I am about a thousand shades of serious here.

If you have one, please consider lending it to me. If you know of any place to rent one, tell me. I'm all ears.

Thank you.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

June 7 show cancelled

The Gay Men's Chorus cancelled their Saturday night show, so that means I'm not opening for them. It's just as well, because I've got my work cut out for me at the house.

I called The Artist tonight and gave him a list of tools we need to borrow. Margaret procured for us a lent shopvac.

If anyone has any advice about how to get linoleum that's fused to the floor off the floor, we're all ears. The paper backing of the linoleum in the bathroom (that was under the carpet and held to the floor by nails, upholstery tacks and - and! - copious amounts of glue is fused to the floor. Careful work with a putty knife has freed some of the paper, but wood is coming up with it. It's hideous. I got so frustrated that I decided to move out to the hallway and pull up that carpet, where I found the same linoleum held down by the same nails, upholstery tacks and glue.

The more we pulled things up, the more I cursed every single other owner of our house. Margaret advised that we can get their names from the Holyoke history room in case we want to hate them by name. I only wish there were time to go over there.

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