Thursday, January 30, 2014


I'm having an icicle competition. 
This one was on Big Jim's house next door.  This icicle is the winner of the length competition.

These were at work.  These are the winners of the quantity division.


The second floor has been neglected.  It was messy and dusty.  Add a broom, a sweeper and a few pieces of plywood and the upstairs looks much better. 

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Walt Kowalski was building and hanging a support beam.

And he's cute in his hockey toque.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Silver linings

I am finding the silver lining today.  Also, so I don't dive head-first into an entire deep-dish pizza by myself.

We had a very productive weekend.  A little plumbing, a little shoveling, a little wall building, and an evening out. 

In the snow on Saturday, Walt Kowalski finished a water line for the boiler at House #2.  

Saturday night we treated ourselves to pizza and a concert.  An excellent concert.  Walt Kowalski and I have gone to see Get The Led Out for the last three years.  They bill themselves as "The American Led Zeppelin."  They are not Led Zeppelin impersonators and they make sure they tell the audience.  They have a love for the music and play it *exactly* the way you hear it on the record.  They joked and said 'Please feel free to play air guitar along with us.'  Many of the people in the audience did. 

It was an excellent concert.  They are talented musicians and it really did sound just like the original recordings. 

It also amazed me that with the weather and roads as bad as it was Saturday night, the theater was still sold out and completely attended. 

It also amazed me that people leave before the end of the show.  Maybe they only had the baby sitter until 10:45.  Good reason.  Maybe they didn't put enough money in the parking meter.  Possible, except parking is free on the weekends.  Maybe the roads were getting bad.  Nope, roads were already not good. 

I don't understand.  It's not the big city.  You're not going to sit in traffic on the bridge or in front of the tunnel for 45 minutes.  Yes, Walt Kowalski and I waiting about 5 minutes to get out of the parking garage, but we were also parked on the very top level. 

I suppose that these are also the same people that leave before the fireworks finale, before curtain call at a musical production, and before the last hymn of mass is finished.   

Then again, these are probably the same people that pass me in a big hurry on the highway, only to find I caught up to them at the next red light.  Makes me want to wave and smile at them.  Hi. 

Sunday we built a new wall between the dining room and laundry room.  Walt Kowalski said 'You gonna help me or take pictures of dogs playing in the snow?'

Busted.  They are cute dogs.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Keys Please!

Sunday morning we were getting ready to leave to go to the store and to House #1. 
It's cold. 
It's snowing. 

Go the laundry room to get my boots.
Lots of dirty laundry. 
Put a load of wash in the machine.
Get extra sweatshirt on.
Get extra socks on.
Get boots on.
Get gloves on.
Feed cats.
Get coat on.

Have to use bathroom.

Take off coat.
Take off gloves.

Put coat back on.
Put gloves back on.

Walt Kowalski said he was going to warm up the truck and shovel a path down the driveway.  At this point he's probably shoveled the entire driveway and the truck is out of gas.

Get wallet.
Get phone.
Get house keys.

Where are house keys?

House keys are always in the same spot. 

No house keys in same spot. 
Under wallet? No.
Under coat from yesterday?  No.
In pocket of coat from last night?  No. 
In kitchen? No.
On wall?  No. 

Crap.  Double crap. 

These are all of the keys in the world.  Every house key in the world is on this key ring.  I always put it in the same spot in the house and the same spot in the truck. 

Crap, crap, crappity, crap.

Walt Kowalski has his own set of every house key in the world so he wouldn't have picked up mine and I used them to open the front door last night so they HAD to be IN the house.  They could be lost forever!

Ok fine, I will just go confess to Walt Kowalski that I can't find them and use his set so we can get this show on the road.

When I opened the front door I heard the familiar jingle jangle.  No, it wasn't Santa Claus, but it was a present.


It was so cold and snowy when we got home on Saturday night, that I hurried and closed the door behind us. 

Thank goodness we live in a safe neighborhood.  When I told Walt Kowalski what I had done, he said, 'You made it too easy for the burglars.  They wouldn't have thought to look for keys in the door.'

The Great Plant Caper

In August 2012, my department moved into a new building on campus.  It's a "green" building.  Green is the newest trend.  My family has been green WAY before green was cool.  We called it saving money.  Although there is nothing about this building that saved money.

Anyway....this new building has less natural light in the offices than the old building did.  *sigh*  But it's green!

I had a building full of plants from the previous location that I brought with me.  One guy on administration didn't like the location of my plants and required they be removed. Yes, he said that.  I think he also said to find a closet to put them in.  Yes, let's have a green building with nothing green in it.  His definition of green is different from my definition of green. 

Most of my plants got relocated from common areas in the building into my dark office.  I also put a few in another office next to mine and a conference room down the hall. 

NOTE: My office does have awful, overhead florescent lighting. 

Every afternoon Friday I take 15 minutes to water the plants.  Before Christmas break, I noticed that one of the Peace Lilies wasn't looking so good.  It is a forgiving plant, but this one needed more light. 

So I moved the plant to the window ledge of the kitchenette.  The kitchenette is shared by my department and the department across the hall.  About 20 people and it has a large window that gets more light during the day.  I left a note on the plant that said this was a temporary home.

On Friday I went to water the plants as usual.  Except the Peace Lily in the kitchenette was missing.  Plant, pot, and water catcher.  All missing. 

I watered the Peace Lily last week so I know it went missing sometime this week. 

I'm going to have to hang a sign.

My conclusions come down to two things.  1.  Someone bumped it over, made a big mess, and cleaned up the evidence.  or 2. Someone just doesn't like plants. 

Friday, January 24, 2014


It's cold.  Still cold.

I know, I know, it's winter.  It's supposed to be cold.  Heck, I used to like to ski!  I still like to ski.

I don't remember skiing in temperatures less than 15 degrees. 

Maybe I'm just getting old.
Maybe the sight of the wind blowing the snow off the roof. 

Last night, after getting groceries, putting away groceries, and taking out the trash, Walt Kowalski and I were chilled to the bone.  I stood in front of the fire all night.  Walt Kowalski hid under a blanket on the couch. 

There is more snow predicted tonight. 

We have a plan to get additional boards right after work.  Hopefully before the next snow arrives. 

Wait a minute, going to the home improvement store in a snowstorm.  That sounds like a very familiar situation from last week. Same day of the week.  Same snow storm.  Same cold.  Same boards. 

The forecast for next week predicts almost 30 degrees!  Maybe we'll get the driveway shoveled. 

Maybe skiing is a good idea after all. Maybe staying in by the fire with a hot toddy is an even better idea.  

How do you spell the sound of teeth chattering? 

PS.  I tried to get a photo of the wind blowing the snow off the roof of my office building, but every time I waited for it...nothing happened.  Yet, I turn my back to the window and what do I see in the reflection of my monitor: blowing snow.  I think the wind was mocking me. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014


It's cold.
It's snowing. 

There is nothing much exciting.  Still working on the subfloor on the first level of House #1.

I will leave you with this chuckle for the day. 

Walt Kowalski and I were headed to see Grammy the other day.  On the way there we passed a small stream on my side of the vehicle.  The stream was full of ducks.  Mallard ducks.  Lots of them.  All floating together down the stream. 

I said to Walt Kowalski, 'Look at that school of ducks.'

After I said it, my brain registered what I said.  I just kept looking my window hoping Walt Kowalski hadn't caught what I said. 

I looked at him.  He was smiling and said 'school of ducks?'

I said, 'Yes!  Some have dunce caps and some are wearing graduation caps.'

He responded, 'If it's a school of ducks, then is it a flock of fish?'

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Daily How To

Good afternoon shoppers!

Here is your daily How To.

Today we focus on Panic.  Specifically, weather related panic.  Here is how you can successfully create panic in your office.  This method is has not only been proven to create panic, but it also successfully creates procrastination and pacing. 

Step one: Make it snow 

This first step is a bit tricky.  Generally there will be at least one snowfall per winter that occurs during the work hours.  You might have to wait a few weeks or months, but it will happen.  The quantity of snow isn't always important. 

Step two: Experience the Elements

All you need a window.  Just watching the snow fall and pile around the cars in the parking lot is enough to create panic for some.  Even better, if you can go outside and experience the elements in person the return to the office to tell the tale.  Even best, when you have driven or another co-worker has driven in the offending snow.  An over-heard comment really adds to the spin. 'Wow, it was brutal getting here today.' or 'Man, I didn't think I was going to make it up the hill on the way back from lunch.'  {insert nervous teeth chattering here}

Step three: Add a Weather Report

The internet is a great source of panic for weather related conditions.  It never ends and updates every few minutes.  With big blue and pink weather blobs covering most of the county map, nervous Nellies can create panic with just a click of a button.

Step four:  Add Social Media
Not only will you have live, in-person account of the weather, you can also get weather details from a co-worker's fiancĂ©'s brother's aunt.  Totally creditable source.

Step five: Add a Call From an Outside Source (usually from someone at home)
A call from that special someone at home who 'just made it home' and who knows you still have an hour commute will definitely get that blood pressure rising. 
Add all steps and mix well. 
Makes for an extremely productive day at work and enjoyable co-workers.
Don't worry, there will be plenty of leftovers tomorrow.  You'll get to hear the tales of treacherous roads and a nightly weather report of additional inches later in the week. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Indecent Food

We had a role reversal on Sunday. 

I shoveled most of the length of the driveway while Walt Kowalski shoveled the hill.  Then I *finally* took the Christmas decorations and hauled them up to the storage tubs in the Shedzilla.  I organized and got all of the parts and pieces back in the proper containers.  It was cold, but Shedzilla provided good shelter from the wind while allowing the sun in. 

Meanwhile, Walt Kowalski sucked up another 2 or 3 cats of fur around the house, a boat load of stink bugs, dusted and mopped the floors, made a fire AND made dinner. 

He is so good to me.  I often ask him if I tell him that enough. 

I love to cook.  He loves to cook, too.  I do most of the cooking because he's busy doing other things around the house.  I do the healthy, low-fat cooking.  He does the decadent, good for your soul cooking and sneaks in more butter when I'm not looking!

Walt Kowalski makes food that is so good, it's obscene.

Garlic butter chicken.  Over smashed potatoes. 
I could have licked the pan it was that good.  There is enough for leftovers one night this week, too.
I have been on a popcorn kick.  Last week on my day off, I got out my stove top popcorn maker.  It takes a little more effort than the microwave kind, but the results are 100 times better.  We've had popcorn every night for the last week. 
A 1/4 cup of kernels yields about 9 cups of popcorn.  An entire pot full of crisp, tender popcorn created with just a tablespoon or two of Canola (or olive) oil. 
Add just a hint of've got Kettle Corn
Add just a hint more of've got caramel corn.
Add just a drizzle of melted've got chocolate-covered caramel corn. 

Not the over the top sweet caramel corn either.  I am going to experiment with different seasonings this week. Topping the list: Parmesan cheese, Old Bay, Italian seasoning, cinnamon and pepper, Red hot and butter. 
Completely accidental side note: Sunday, January 19th was national popcorn day.

Take us up to warp speed

Friday night we formulated a plan for Saturday.  We needed additional boards for the floor.  What we didn't know was that there was a snow storm brewing.

 No fear, take us up to warp speed...

 It always makes me laugh when you turn on the high beams in a snow storm. 

The snow was very pretty AND an extra added benefit, nobody was at the home improvement store!  I guess nobody wants to do home improvements when it's snowing.

The back of the house is actually 2 lower than the front of the house.  Part of it is because it's an old house and part of it is because the previous owners added a cement block foundation to the back half of the house.  Great, except it wasn't a the EXACT level as the front of the house.  No big deal.  The house isn't moving, so we just have to raise the floor. 

The biggest drop in floor is right under this wall between the kitchen and living room.  

Sniff.  Sniff.  The archway has to go. But it's ok for several reasons.  1.  It wasn't made well.  2.  It wasn't the same curve on both sides of the arch.   3. We are planning a beam match the one in the entrance.  4.  It would be the only curve in a house full of angles. 

The cool part about this wall was that it used to hold a pocket door.  The tracks were still inside. The doors are long gone and with the open concept we want on the first floor, the doors aren't needed. 

Although we are replacing so much of the old in the house, that doesn't mean we aren't appreciating the craftsmanship of the old.  (Note:  We would have been glad to keep the old if the old had been correct and cared for all these years.)

Chain Saw Johnny and I admired the method they used to hold in a beam above the arch. We also are amazed they did everything with nails. Now we use screws.  Yes it's a little more expensive, but they hold so much more securely.  (They are also removable.  I do a LOT of removing.)

Wall coming down.

Wall gone. 
Wall going back up.  Look! New subfloors that are level. The downhill slope is gone.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Loose Screws

You can't say that Walt Kowalski and I have a few screws loose because we've tightened and loosened and removed and replaced and tightened and loosened and removed and replaced every screw in this floor.

Oh and we're only 1/4 of the way done with the first floor!

I jokingly said 'I am not taking the screws out of this board one more time!'
Walt Kowalski just smiled at me.

"Crap, I'm taking the screws out of this board.'

But we've got it figured out now.  We were over complicating things.  Keep It Simple.  Don't forget that. 

Lots of thanks to our sponsor for today's show. 

The reward for floor boards properly installed was nachos by the fire.  Fudge likes this seat.  He can see us on the couch, see any other cats that come down the stairs, and won't miss a snack on either floor.

About 9:30pm Fudge abandoned his post on the couch and headed upstairs.  I think he followed Walt Kowalski upstairs with hopes of getting a treat. A few minutes later, Fudge came trotting down the steps at full speed, circled the couch with a BIG tail, and headed back upstairs.  A big, defensive, scared cat tail, that is.

Walt Kowalski and I couldn't take the suspense and followed him to the back door.  Ah yes, nothing like a passing neighborhood cat seen through the window to get everybody excited.  15 minutes later we heard hissing and growling and cat cursing upstairs only to find:

Cat fur....everywhere.

Cat logic:  I'm mad at that neighborhood cat because he is on my turf.  I might not be allowed outside, but it is still my turf.  If I can't get to him, then I will beat up the closest sibling. 

Fudge wasn't the bully.  He was the one taking the beating.  We don't know who beat him up, but that's Fudge fur you see.  At least 10 puffs were located all around the kitchen floor. 

No scratch marks on Fudge, just lots of fur flying. 

Just a typical day at the Cat Ranch. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Crooked Man


"There was a crooked man"
By  Mother Goose  

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

He met a crooked woman and he found a crooked preach
They had a crooked marriage on a crooked little beach
They had some crooked children and they lived a crooked life
The crooked man, the cat, the mouse, the children and the wife.

I only knew the first verse from the nursery rhyme.  As with so many rhymes, they turn disastrous in the end.   That is why I'm going to stop at the first two verses.

Walt Kowalski and I definitely have the crooked house, especially the crooked floors.  And crooked cats.  A crooked beach would be nice, too. Hmmm, maybe I need to re-write this poem. 

Leveling the floor in the middle of the house is vexing us.  The problem is the floor (and house) are bowed in two different directions.  We'll get it.  It will just take some configurations and contemplations.

(A stile, this instance, are steps that allow people, but not animals, to climb.  I had to look it up.  I was more familiar with the definition of stile as a part of a paneled door.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Old-Fashioned Beam Raising

Saturday we had a good old-fashioned beam raising party.  It was a small party.
First, we had to make the beam.  That is six 2"x10"x8' boards with plywood sandwiched between.
We made a wooden sandwich.  No need for mayo, we've got screws.
See that window in the background, we had to open the window, slide the beam out the window, maneuver it between the supports, then bring it back into the house. 
{Insert joke here about not losing your beam out the window.  We chuckled about it, but we held on tight.}
But before we did that, we had to remove the original wall.  Walt Kowalski's support wall was so good that the old wall was no longer supporting.  The 2x4s were easy to remove. 
Walt Kowalski and Chain Saw Johnny had an excellent to save our backs and heads.  Instead of hoisting the beam straight up and holding it there, why not lift and support it several times.  That way, we can all be on the same end to lift to the next level. 
Three lifts on each side.  Three cross support braces.


Once we got it to the ceiling, then Walt Kowalski and Chain Saw Johnny were able to insert the supports on each side and the center support.  We probably had enough support and no center post was needed, but it was an extra piece of mind.

Finally, the support walls came down.  Wow.   

 WOW.  What an open space.  (Why didn't I bring my roller skates?)
Sunday Walt Kowalski and I worked on repairs to the floor where the wall used to stand, leveling the low spots, and putting down a new subfloor.

I know we have a long way to go, but this makes such a difference. 

Side notes:

After raising this beam, we stood back and said "Can you imagine doing this with a hammer and nails instead of power tools and screws?"  No, I can not.

With all of the new plywood, 2x4s, sweeping, and painting, the old-house smell is almost gone. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Big, HEAVY weekend

It's a big weekend coming up.  The dining room wall is coming down.
Walt Kowalski and I prepped the wall last night.  We have a support wall on both sides of the old wall.  We had to have a support wall on both sides because there are two sets of beams above and of course, the wall we are removing holds them both. So the wall on the left holds the ceiling (floor) on the left and the wall on the right holds the ceiling (floor) on the right. 

Mostly it looks like we built a forest of 2x4s.

It's very exciting. I can't wait to see it finished!

We still have to build the beam.  The planning stages tells us that we might have to open the back window in the laundry room, slide the new beam partially outside and then maneuver it around and between this forest of 2x4s. 

That's us.  Never a dull moment.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A whole lotta nothing

Last night, I was folding towels and Walt Kowalski was playing the guitar when a whole lotta bright, blinking lights came through the front window.  No, not alien lights.  Emergency lights.

There was a car just off the road at the bottom of the curve.  Not in the ditch, just pulled over like it ran out of gas.  First an ambulance stopped.  We think he just happened to be passing by and stopped to ask if they needed assistance.  Then the ambulance left.  Then another car stopped at the bottom of driveway. 

 Then a police car stopped.  They stayed for a almost an hour. 
But the police left the scene about a half hour later leaving behind flares up and down the road.  There must have been a more serious situation that needed their attention. 

We get so much light from the shopping center that sometimes it's difficult to see the meteor showers, but I was very surprised at how much light came through the curtains from the emergency vehicles parked at the bottom of the driveway.  I think the fresh snow added to the brightness.  

At one point, Walt Kowalski wanted to open the window and yell 'Turn down the lights! I'm trying to sleep!'  But then we'd be just like the cranky neighbors who don't like fireworks. 

About another hour later, the tow truck finally arrived.  AAA must have been running slow from the cold weather.
Overall, it was a whole lotta nothing but blinking lights at the Cat Ranch last night.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Walt Kowalski and I had a list of "chores" we wanted to accomplish around the Cat Ranch over Christmas break. 
Silly things like changing the water filters and cleaning out the pantry.  Silly things that need done but end up taking the entire afternoon.  
He got the water filter changed.  I didn't get the pantry cleaned out. 
That's the nice part about chores, there will always be tomorrow.  There will also always be more chores.
Another item on the to-do list was to finish the tile at the bottom of the steps.  It's a small square, only 4 whole tiles and 4 partial tiles.  This fall we removed the old green shag carpet at the bottom of the steps and at the entrance.  Walt Kowalski got the temporary tiles in the entrance put down right away, but the tile at the bottom was still unfinished.  It required the use of the wet saw. 

After a little struggling, we got it functioning.  He measured and cut the four side pieces.  I was the stenographer and tile gluer.

Of course, we got cat assistance.  Everything requires cat assistance.

I didn't get a finished photo because it's not finished.  It still needs grouted.  Add that to the to-do list for the next snow day. 

We also changed the cat filter as seen in the photo below:

All heat must be filtered through cats first.  *sigh*

Look at all those cans in the background!  Just look at all of those cans that missed the recycling bin!  In -0 weather, my aim isn't the best. OK, I admit it, I didn't even look.  I just opened the door and toss them outside.  I'll get them another day.  Another warmer day that is.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Not just ones doing the remodeling.

These flakes were from the Hercules snow storm.  The first snow of the year. They were HUGE, perfect snowflakes.  I could have stayed outside and taken pictures all afternoon.  Then you could confirm who the flake really was. 

With the wall to the living room removed, the next wall to go is the one to the dining room.  (Please notice some of the new sub flooring in the dining room.)

However, upon further inspection, Walt Kowalski decided the ceiling above the staircase needed attention first.  This particular spot is the entrance to the attic and needs support from below.  To build a support wall, the wall to the stair case needed removed. 

As it turns out, the handrail wasn't that secure and wasn't difficult to remove.  Most of the spindles were already broken, missing, or loose.  Originally, I wanted to sand and remove the paint from the old handrail and spindles, but upon further review, it wasn't worth the time and effort.

The previous owners cut a not so nice door in the wall underneath the stairs to the basement.  With all of the holes drilled and cut into structural places, we are amazed that the house hasn't fallen in. 

The burn pile grows!


A new support wall rises!

If only it happened as quickly as it does in the photos.